Women in certain occupations ‘may have a higher risk of ovarian cancer’ | world news


Hairdressers, beauticians and accountants could be at higher risk of developing ovarian cancer, according to a new study.

Workers in distribution, retail, apparel and construction may also be at higher risk, according to a new study published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

However, the study’s authors stressed that “the conclusions from the results are limited” as they called for more work examining the links between ovarian cancer risk and different occupations.

The researchers, led by scientists from the University of Montreal in Canada, linked occupation to ovarian cancer risk. They examined data from 491 Canadian women with ovarian cancer and compared them to 897 women without the disease.

They also compared this data to the Canadian Job Exposure Matrix to examine possible exposures in the workplace – for example, whether they were more likely to come into contact with a particular chemical at work.

After considering potential influencing factors, they found that some occupations may be associated with an increased risk of disease.

Those who had worked as a hairdresser, barber or beautician seemed to have a threefold higher risk.

Meanwhile, women who had worked in accounting for a decade were twice as likely to contract the disease, while construction workers were nearly three times as likely.

Shop assistants and salespeople had a 45% increased risk, while those making or altering clothing appeared to have an 85% increased risk.

Researchers identify risky ‘agents’

The researchers said those found to be at higher risk were also more likely to be exposed to a range of “active ingredients,” including cosmetic talc, ammonia, hydrogen peroxide, hair dust, synthetic fibers, polyester fibers, organic dyes, and pigments and bleaches.

“We observed associations suggesting that accounting, hairdressing, sales, sewing, and related occupations may be associated with excessive risks,” the authors write.

“Further population-based research is needed to assess potential hazards for women workers and occupations commonly held by women.”

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In a linked editorial, researchers at the National Cancer Institute in Maryland, USA, point out that women are underrepresented in “occupational cancer research studies.”

They said the study “reminds us that while the underrepresentation of women in occupational cancer studies – and even potential strategies to address this problem – has long been recognized, there is still room for improvement in the study of women’s occupational risks.”

“By excluding women, we miss the opportunity to identify risk factors for female-specific cancers, to assess whether there are gender-specific risk differences, and to study exposures in occupations that are predominantly female.”

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