To prevent cancer, it is necessary to know the causes of the disease. Historically, the mapping of causes of cancer began with observations and studies of cancer in occupational groups. Sometimes the difference in the incidence of disease between an occupational group and the rest of the population could be so large that the causal connection was obvious. Today, working life is usually safer than it was 50 and 100 years ago. As a rule, but not always, the contrasts in possible carcinogenic occupational exposure are smaller today than in the past. Nevertheless, studies of the incidence of cancer in occupational groups will continue to be a key contributor to increased knowledge about the causes of cancer.
Studies of occupational cancer risk have contributed to improvements in the working environment, but are also important far beyond this. Causal research leads attention to possible mechanisms for cancer development and therefore contributes to the development of diagnostics and treatment strategies. When risk factors in the working environment have been identified, any significance for the general population must also be considered. Could there be a risk associated with exposure at low levels over a long period? Or for particularly vulnerable populations, such as children or pregnant women? And what happens in combination with other influences? These are issues that we work on within several national and international research projects.