Carcinogens in the News

The CAREX Canada team offers two regular newsletters: the biannual e-Bulletin summarizing information on upcoming webinars, new publications, and updates to estimates and tools; and the monthly Carcinogens in the News, a digest of media articles, government reports, and academic literature related to the carcinogens we’ve classified as important for surveillance in Canada. A sample of some of the stories included in Carcinogens in the News are available below. Sign up for one of these newsletters, or both, at the bottom of this page.

Occupational environment and ovarian cancer risk

BMJ Occupational and Environmental MedicineThe objective was to investigate employment in an occupation or industry and specific occupational exposures in relation to ovarian cancer risk. In a population-based case–control study conducted in Montreal, Canada (2011–2016), lifetime occupational histories were collected for 491 cases of ovarian cancer and 897 controls. The relationship between exposure to each of the 29 most prevalent agents and ovarian cancer risk was assessed. Certain occupations, industries, and specific occupational exposures may be associated with ovarian cancer risk. Further research is needed to provide a more solid grounding for any inferences in this regard.

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Race-based data can help address health inequities in Canada: experts

Global News All Canadian jurisdictions should routinely collect data on racial and Indigenous identity to help address inequities in health care, and the best way to do that is during the health card application or renewal process, a group of experts say. The lead author of the commentary published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal said Black and Indigenous patients have less access to care and worse outcomes, and allowing them to voluntarily provide identity data could help track racism in the health care system. The authors explain that it would also help monitor any progress toward addressing stereotypes that lead to poorer care for some people.

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Effect of environmental factors on cancer in Europe

European Commission – Roughly 10% of the cancer burden in Europe is attributable to environmental factors. Approximately 97% of the EU urban population live in areas that exceed the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended level for ambient air pollution exposure, increasing the risk of poor health, including lung cancer. Considerable differences between countries are observed in estimated lung cancer deaths attributable to ambient air pollution, residential radon, and second-hand smoke. On average, men are affected twice as much by the environmental pollutants as compared to women. The Zero Pollution Action Plan and the European Green Deal aim to reduce exposure to environmental pollutants and their detrimental effects on the health of European citizen

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Air pollution from increasing wildfires could pose long-term health risks

The Globe and Mail – As large wildfires have become regular occurrences in Canada, some scientists warn that repeated exposure to the air pollution they produce could pose long-term health risks, potentially leading to a higher incidence of illness such as cancer and dementia. Wildfires have burned through more than one million hectares in Alberta this spring. Saskatchewan, Manitoba, B.C. and the Northwest Territories are also battling active fires. The website, maintained by the University of British Columbia’s Weather Forecast Research Team, shows these fires are contributing to a wide ribbon of air pollution, snaking across much of the country.

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BC to Tackle the Deadliest Workplace Killer

The Tyee – The dangers of asbestos have been known for decades, but it remains the number one killer of workers in British Columbia (BC). Since 2002, BC has recorded nearly 1,200 work-related deaths linked to asbestos. For many people, asbestos is a thing of the past, but advocates say workers in BC are still regularly exposed to asbestos on the job. The International Union of Painters and Allied Trades in BC says a mix of uninformed and unscrupulous construction contractors are routinely putting workers in close contact with asbestos, sometimes without knowing it. Next year, the BC government is set to become the first in Canada to require companies that work in asbestos removal to be licensed by the government, part of a bid to eliminate bad actors and keep workers safe.

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Barriers and facilitators in the creation of a surveillance system for solar radiation-induced skin cancers

New Solutions: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy – Outdoor workers are exposed to many hazards, including solar ultraviolet radiation (UVR). Identifying, reporting, analyzing, and tracking the exposures or health outcomes of outdoor workers have not generally been formally considered. This article aims to summarize the best practices/strategies for creating an occupational sun exposure or skin cancer surveillance system for outdoor workers and to understand the key barriers and facilitators to the development of such a system. The authors summarized five occupational surveillance strategies, and identified ten key considerations that include critical barriers and vital facilitators for the design of a successful occupational safety and health surveillance system for outdoor workers.

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New underground mining rules expected to improve safety for Ontario miners

CTV News – The Ontario government announced new rules to improve the safety for the province’s 29,000 mining workers. The new rules will improve ventilation requirements underground and lower the exposure limit to harmful diesel exhaust to the most protective levels in North America. Changes to the rules will also allow for the use of track mounted robots in mines. The changes come in response to calls from unions asking for diesel particulate exposure to be reduced for underground workers, and also from recommendations from the Final report: mining health, safety and prevention review produced by the Office of the Chief Prevention Officer, and 2022 coroner’s inquests.

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Consequences of changing Canadian activity patterns since the COVID-19 pandemic include increased residential radon gas exposure for younger people

Scientific Reports – The COVID-19 pandemic produced widespread behaviour changes that shifted how people split their time between different environments. The authors report an update of North American activity patterns pre- and post-pandemic, and implications to radon gas exposure, a leading cause of lung cancer. A survey was conducted with 4,009 Canadian households. Overall time spent indoors remained unchanged, but time in primary residence increased from 66.4 to 77% of life (+ 1062 h/y) after pandemic onset, increasing annual radiation doses from residential radon by 19.2% (0.97 mSv/y). Greater changes were experienced by younger people in newer urban or suburban properties, and those employed in managerial, administrative, or professional roles. This work supports re-evaluating environmental health risks modified by still-changing activity patterns.

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Face-to-face with scorching wildfire: potential toxicant exposure and the health risks of smoke for wildland firefighters at the wildland-urban interface

The Lancet Regional Health – As wildfire risks have elevated due to climate change, the health risks that toxicants from fire smoke pose to wildland firefighters have been exacerbated. Recently, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has reclassified wildland firefighters’ occupational exposure as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1). Wildfire smoke contributes to an increased risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease, yet wildland firefighters have inadequate respiratory protection. This review focuses on four aspects of wildland firefighters’ health risks at the wildland-urban interface: economic costs and human impact, respiratory protection, multipollutant mixtures, and proactive management of wildfires.

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Carcinogenicity of anthracene, 2-bromopropane, butyl methacrylate, and dimethyl hydrogen phosphite

The Lancet Oncology – A Working Group of 20 scientists from 10 countries met at the invitation of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) to finalise their evaluation of the carcinogenicity of four agents: anthracene, 2-bromopropane, butyl methacrylate (BMA), and dimethyl hydrogen phosphite (DMHP). 2-Bromopropane was classified as “probably carcinogenic to humans” (Group 2A) based on “sufficient” evidence for cancer in experimental animals and “strong” mechanistic evidence in experimental systems. The other three agents were classified as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” (Group 2B) based on “sufficient” evidence for cancer in experimental animals. For all four agents, the evidence regarding cancer in humans was “inadequate”, as no studies were available. These assessments will be published in Volume 133 of the IARC Monographs.

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Calls for lower levels of diesel particulate exposure in Ontario mining

Canadian Occupational Safety – The United Steelworkers (USW) Local 6500 has partnered with the Centre for Research in Occupational Safety and Health at Laurentian University and Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers to work to change Ontario’s legislation for diesel particulate exposure in the mining industry. The USW Diesel Particulate Project is advocating for the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training, and Skills Development to change the mining OEL for diesel engine exhaust to 20 µg/m3, which is the level recommended by both CAREX Canada and the Occupational Cancer Research Centre.

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Investigating reports of cancer clusters in Canada: A qualitative study of public health communication practices and investigation procedures

Public Health Agency of Canada – Public health officials provide an important public service responding to community concerns around cancer and often receive requests to investigate patterns of cancer incidence and communicate findings with citizens. In this study, procedures were identified for Canadian public health officials (PHOs) to follow when investigating reports of cancer clusters, and the challenges officials have faced when conducting risk communication with communities were explored. Differences in practices used to investigate suspected cancer clusters by PHOs were revealed. Establishing pan-Canadian guidelines could improve procedural consistency across jurisdictions and offer enhanced opportunities to compare cluster responses for evaluation. A reporting system to track reported clusters may improve information sharing across all levels of governments.

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Behaviour and socio-economic factors significantly affect radon exposure, study finds

University of Calgary – A new multidisciplinary study shows that people who act quickly to test for and mitigate radon gas in their homes are at a much lower risk of developing lung cancer long-term. The study found that people who act quickly to learn about, test for, and reduce exposure to radioactive radon gas in their homes could reduce their lifetime risk of lung cancer by as much as 40%, compared to those who do not. The researchers determined that, for a variety of reasons including economic barriers (i.e affordability) and delaying behaviours, three in five Canadians continue to live in homes with known high radon, despite being aware of the associated health risks.

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Households and the Environment: Radon awareness and testing, 2021

Statistics Canada – After smoking, radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in Canada. In 2021, 56% of Canadian households reported that they had heard of radon, up from 54% in 2019. Of these, 69% were able to identify the correct description of radon when asked to pick from a list of possibilities, while 13% chose an incorrect description, down from 18% in 2019. The remainder had only heard of the term. In 2021, 9% of non-apartment households that had heard of radon indicated that they had tested for radon at some point in the past. Of these households, 86% had tested within the previous 10 years. About 10% of households that had tested their home reported that a problem had been found.

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Hair straightening chemicals associated with higher uterine cancer risk

National Institutes of Health – Women who used chemical hair straightening products were at higher risk for uterine cancer compared to women who did not report using these products, according to a new study from the National Institutes of Health. The researchers found no associations with uterine cancer for other hair products that the women reported using, including hair dyes, bleach, highlights, or perms. The study data includes 33,497 US women ages 35-74 participating in the Sister Study, a study led by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. The women were followed for almost 11 years and during that time 378 uterine cancer cases were diagnosed.

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The CAREX Canada team offers two regular newsletters: the biannual e-Bulletin summarizing information on upcoming webinars, new publications, and updates to estimates and tools; and the monthly Carcinogens in the News, a digest of media articles, government reports, and academic literature related to the carcinogens we’ve classified as important for surveillance in Canada. Sign up for one or both of these newsletters below.

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As a national organization, our work extends across borders into many Indigenous lands throughout Canada. We gratefully acknowledge that our host institution, the University of British Columbia Point Grey campus, is located on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) people.