Women In Men’s Jobs: Higher Risk of Breast Cancer?
A recent study followed over 2000 women to see if there was a correlation between occupation and breast cancer risk. They found that across all sectors, women in jobs with potentially high exposures to carcinogens and endocrine disruptors had elevated breast cancer risk. Specifically sectors with elevated risk included: agriculture, bars with gambling, automotive plastics manufacturing, food canning and metalworking.
In other words, women who would worked for the automotive plastics industries for example, were almost 5 times as likely as women in other occupations to develop breast cancer. It is important to note that the researchers made adjustments for smoking, weight, alcohol use and other lifestyle and reproductive factors and still found elevated risks in these occupations.
I am surprised it took this long to figure out that working with fumes, dust and factory waste is linked to breast cancer. After all, for decades, workers in those industries have reported high levels of nosebleeds, headaches, nausea and dizziness.
Jeanne Rizzo, president of the Breast Cancer Fund, was quoted in an insightful article outlining the risks of factory (http://www.publicintegrity.org/2012/11/19/11806/study-spotlights-high-breast-cancer-risk-plastics-workers ) work saying the study is, “a very powerful piece of work. The piece that’s really been missing for female breast cancer is occupation.”
There is no doubt that the exposure to toxic chemicals and waste is a significant factor for women in these occupations developing breast cancer, but what about the actual work environment? Is it coincidence that the jobs that have the highest levels of breast cancer risk are also very male dominated?
Chinese medicine has long claimed that emotions are at the root of most diseases. And even the American Chemistry Council says that, “The well-established risk factors for breast cancer are not chemical exposures, but rather a combination of lifestyle and genetic factors.”
In addition to chemical exposure in the high-risk occupations, we have to address the emotional environment. Do women in these male dominated industries also experience social stress, stereotyping and exclusion? Women who work in bars with gambling for example are listed in one of the high-risk categories for breast cancer on the job. The researchers conjecture that this has to do with second hand smoke. It would be interesting to address some of the other exposures women have in this job environment. One can only assume that in addition to second hand smoke they are also working odd hours, dealing with gambling addicts and alcoholics and possibly receiving advances from inebriated men.
We are in desperate need of follow up studies detailing work environment emotional settings as well as chemical exposure so we can address both the physical and emotional strain these female workers are going through.
“Breast cancer risk in relation to occupations with exposure to carcinogens and endocrine disruptors: a Canadian case–control study” James T Brophy, Margaret M Keith, Andrew Watterson, Robert Park, Michael Gilbertson, Eleanor Maticka-Tyndale,Matthias Beck, Hakam Abu-Zahra, Kenneth Schneider, Abraham Reinhartz, Robert DeMatteo and Isaac Luginaah. http://www.ehjournal.net/content/11/1/87/abstract
“Study Spotlights High Breast Cancer Risk for Factory Workers” By Jim Morris http://www.publicintegrity.org/2012/11/19/11806/study-spotlights-high-breast-cancer-risk-plastics-workers