Prevention System Updates

Occupational cancer now Canada’s leading cause of work-related deaths

Release Date:  Sep 19, 2013

An analysis of compensation claim data from the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada shows that occupational cancer has surpassed traumatic injuries and disorders as the primary cause of work-related death. The rates are even higher in Ontario, where more than two occupational cancer deaths occur for each traumatic injury death1.

Researchers from the Occupational Cancer Research Centre, located in Toronto, looked for trends in deaths from

  • occupational cancer
  • high-risk industries and exposures
  • commonly compensated categories of occupational cancers.

Between 1997 and 2010, accepted claims for mesothelioma increased 216%; lung cancer, 575%; and other cancers, 513%. Work-related lung cancer and mesothelioma result primarily from asbestos exposure. High-risk industries include manufacturing, construction, mining and, more recently, government services — reflecting an increase in accepted claims involving firefighters.

The researchers advise that accepted compensation claims probably represent a fraction of the total number of cases. Because some cancers have latency periods of up to 40 years, they may not be reported as work related. Furthermore, claims statistics may not capture exposures to other workplace carcinogens, such as benzene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, formaldehyde, diesel exhaust, wood dust, and radon.

To ensure that people with work-related cancer are identified and file a claim for compensation, the researchers call for more education of workers at high risk of exposure to carcinogens, cancer patients, and health care providers.

1 Trends in compensation for deaths from occupational cancer in Canada: a descriptive study, cmajo, August 8, 2013. Vol. 1 No. 3 E1-E6. CMAJ Open is an online open-access journal published by the Canadian Medical Association.