Certain Occupations at High Risk for Developing Brain Cancer

May 16, 2001
Men employed as roofers or sheet metal workers and those who work with rubber and plastic products, among other occupations, are at higher risk of developing brain\r\ncancer, a Yale investigation found.

Men employed as roofers or sheet metal workers, who work with rubber and plastic products or are employed in cleaning businesses, among other occupations, are at higher risk of developing brain cancer, a Yale investigation found.

Women are at a higher risk of developing brain cancer if they are employed in agricultural services and farm occupations, work with apparel and textile products, in electric and electronic equipment manufacturing and as waitresses.

"Brain cancer incidence and mortality have been increasing in many industrialized countries, particularly among elderly people," said Tongzhang Zheng, professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at Yale School of Medicine and principal investigator of the findings published in a recent issue of the journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. "Improved diagnosis and access to medical care, genetic predisposition and lifestyle factors, such as smoking, drinking alcohol and diet, are not enough to explain the increase."

The major findings of the investigation were that an increased risk of brain cancer was associated with agricultural industry and farm occupations; industries producing rubber and miscellaneous plastic products; industries and occupations which have a potential for exposure to gasoline or solvents; industries producing apparel and other textile products; employment in electric services, and electrical and electronic equipment, plumbing, heating and air conditioning, and sheet metal working industries.

The investigation included 375 cases of brain glioma, a tumor of the neuralgia cells, as compared with 2,434 comparable persons who did not develop brain cancer.

"An increased risk of brain cancer for workers in these industries could be due to their exposure to pesticides, solvents, dyes and formaldehyde, metal fumes and other chemical or physical carcinogens, since some of which have been associated with brain cancer risk," said Zheng.

He emphasized, however, that "more studies are needed because it could also be due to chance."

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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