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Employees in a significant number of workplaces are exposed to a diversity of chemical compounds and other agents at higher concentrations and for longer periods than people in other environments. There is a growing evidence base linking such work-based exposures to a number of cancers, most prevalent among them cancers of the skin, lung and bladder.

Estimating the proportion of cancer attributable to occupational exposures is complicated and difficult. The most comprehensive Australian study estimated that in 2005, 6.5% of cancer cases in Australia could be attributed to workplace exposures (10.8% in men, 2.2% in women).

The same study estimated that about 1.5 million Australian workers, engaged in 51 different industries, may be exposed to carcinogenic agents in the course of their work.

The occupational cancers chapter of our National Cancer Prevention Policy provides comprehensive information on occupational carcinogens in Australia, including statistical data, the evidence base and policy context.

Pesticides and cancer

The term ‘pesticides’ refers to hundreds of synthetic and naturally occurring (i.e. those produced by plants) chemicals designed or naturally produced to deter insects and other agricultural pests. The wide-ranging variety of synthetic and naturally occurring chemical pesticides makes it difficult to accurately assess their potential to cause cancer in humans.

This position statement reviews the evidence in relation to the cancer risk associated with specific pesticide components, as well as the risk associated with the use of pesticides in the workplace and at home. Overall, there is no conclusive evidence linking cancer incidence or mortality with pesticides currently used in Australia. However, the evidence is limited, so it is also impossible to conclude there is no link between pesticide exposure and cancer.

Pesticides and cancer

Explore how our advocacy is making cancer history.