Differences in cancer incidence between occupational groups
Farmers, priests, teachers and medical doctors are among the occupational groups with least cancer. The highest risk is seen in male waiters. This is shown in the first study in The Nordic Occupational Project (NOCCA) that investigates connections between occupation and cancer in the Nordic countries.
Text: Børge Sildnes
Translation: Barbara Mortensen
The study includes 15 million people and is the largest study ever on cancer in different occupational groups. Information on occupation is drawn from Nordic surveys from 1960-1990, linked to cancer data up to 2005. 2.8 million cancer cases were found among those included in the study.
Tobacco and alcohol
“In occupations where there is acceptance for smoking and drinking, we find a higher cancer risk. If your work place is a bar or restaurant, it is easier to consume alcohol than if it is a church or classroom,” says Professor Eero Pukkala at the Finnish Cancer Registry.
Pukkala has headed the Nordic research team, which also includes Kristina Kjærheim, Jan Ivar Martinsen and Elisabete Weiderpass at the Cancer Registry of Norway. The study will be published in the June edition of Acta Oncologica.
For some cancer types there are large differences between the occupational groups. Mesothelioma, which is caused by asbestos, is twenty times more common in plumbers than in farmers. Carpenters have a higher risk of getting nasal cancer. Lip cancer is more common in fishermen, who are generally more exposed to ultraviolet sunlight, than people who work mostly indoors. Journalists and seamen are among the occupational groups that have a high risk of getting liver cancer. This type of cancer is often related to a high intake of alcohol.
Wish to find more causes
This first study in the NOCCA- project (Nordic Occupational Study) lays a foundation for continuous research on occupational cancer. Not all the differences in cancer incidence between the different occupations are equally easy to explain. Through the most recent studies in the project, where one also wishes to use the data on a group level regarding occupational exposure and lifestyle; the goal is to be able to point at several risk factors and thus be able to further explain the differences.