Updated: Nov 15, 2020
The information in this document (and HSE web page link) relates to Health and safety statistics for 2018/19.
Many work and non-work related factors can cause cancer. Furthermore, cancer cases often present themselves many years after the relevant exposure took place. Therefore, it is usually difficult to know whether workplace exposures have caused particular cases of cancer. However, for a large population the approximate number of cancer cases where workplace exposures contributed can be estimated: in other words, how many current cases would not have occurred if the workplace exposure had not happened.
A research study on the burden of occupational cancer in Great Britain estimated the proportion of annual new cancer cases and deaths in Great Britain where workplace exposures contributed. This was done by looking at the likely number of workers who had past exposures to cancer causing agents and the risk of cancer from these exposures.
In the original study, the estimated work-related proportions were applied to the national cancer statistics in 2004 for registrations (newly diagnosed cases), and in 2005 for cancer deaths to estimate the annual burden of occupational cancer.
In 2019, we updated these estimates by applying the previous estimates of the work-related proportions to the newly available national cancer statistics (annual average deaths during 2013-2017 and cancer registrations during 2012-2016). The researchers have also developed methods to estimate the number of occupational cancer cases in the future for a range of intervention scenarios. This enables a comparison of the potential impacts of these interventions on occupational cancer reduction.
Further information on occupational cancer burden research can be found at: www.hse.gov.uk/cancer/research.htm