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Women's Health

Exposure to chemicals at work may increase breast cancer risk in women

For women, the type of job you have could have a significant impact on your health.

A new study has found that women who work in careers where they are exposed to certain chemicals had an increased risk of developing breast cancer, BBC News reported.

Researchers from the Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group (OEHRG) at Stirling University in the U.K. monitored more than 1,000 women with breast cancer and more than 1,100 without it living and working in Southern Ontario, Canada.  For those who had worked 10 years in a “highly exposed” jobs, their risk for getting cancer increased by 42 percent.

The jobs that were associated with the greatest breast cancer risk included plastic manufacturing for the auto industry, farming and metal working.  

According to Dr. James Brophy, one of the OEHRG researchers, breast causality is complex and results from a number of genetic, hormonal and lifestyle factors – as well as environmental factors.  However, this study could provide some clues as to the increase in breast cancer incidence over the years.

“…Studies have shown that breast cancer incidence rose throughout the developed world during in the second half of the 20th Century as women entered industrial workplaces and many new and untested chemicals were being introduced,” Brophy told BBC News.

Brophy and has team hope to research the subject further; he maintained the study of links between occupational hazards and breast cancer is “a neglected area of research.”

A statement from the American Chemistry Council states:

"Our members support strong enforcement of the standards and laws that protect worker health and safety as we continue to produce materials that enable healthier and more efficient lives, including the plastics that make today’s automobiles safer and more fuel efficient than ever before. It is concerning that the authors could be over-interpreting their results and unnecessarily alarm workers. This study included no data showing if there was actual chemical exposure, from what chemicals, at what levels, and over what period of time in any particular workplace. Although this is an important area of research, these findings are inconsistent with other research. This study should not be used to draw any conclusions about the cause of cancer patterns in workers.”

Click for more from BBC News.