About work cancer

Cancer caused by what people do at work is nothing new. One of the first official cases of an occupational cancer was identified in the eighteenth century.

Asbestos is the best known carcinogen – and the biggest killer. Today, asbestos claims well over 100,000 lives a year worldwide. It’s estimated that 10 million people across the world will have died as a result of asbestos exposure before it’s been fully controlled. But there are many other carcinogenic exposures that cause cancer and claim lives – well over 50 substances are listed as known or probable causes of workplace cancer. Across the EU, 1 in 5 workers faces an occupational cancer risk. Across the world, the number of people dying from a work-caused cancer far outstrips those dying because of work accidents. It’s estimated that at least 666,000 people die worldwide every year*.

Recent research has built the most comprehensive picture to date for a single country. A research team led by Dr Lesley Rushton of Imperial College, London, linked thousands of cancer deaths with different occupations. It found:

  • almost 14,000 new cases of cancer caused by work are registered each year
  • around 8,000 deaths a year are caused by occupational cancer.

About IOSH’s campaign

IOSH’s No Time to Lose campaign aims to get carcinogenic exposure issues more widely understood and help businesses take action. The campaign is working to:

  • raise awareness of a significant health issue facing workers in the UK and internationally
  • suggest some solutions on a UK scale to tackle the problem – a national model that can be transposed internationally
  • offer free practical, original materials to businesses to help them deliver effective prevention programmes.

National action plan

Got a question? Ask our expert panel.

Is your business affected? Free resources.

Get involved – support the campaign, pledge to take action.

*Estimate of 666,000 global work-related cancer deaths annually: ‘Roles of occupational safety and health organisations in global and regional prevention strategies’, Takala et al., International Commission on Occupational Health, 2009.

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