Women who have worked, on farms have a higher risk of getting breast cancer, a study claims

Breast cancer farm workers link


Women who have worked, on farms have a higher risk of getting breast cancer, a study claims.

Stirling University researchers said women who then worked in healthcare further increased their risk, although more research is needed to explain why.

The study raises fresh concerns about the risk posed by weed killers and chemicals containing chlorine.

However, Cancer Research UK said the study of 1,100 women was too small a group to draw any conclusions.

The research claimed that 137 Scottish women could die each year from breast cancer brought on by their work.

Those involved in the study said more work was needed to identify the link between different jobs and cancer.

But they said the research justified better control of potentially harmful chemicals.

It found that women with breast cancer were three times as likely to have grown up on a farm or worked in agriculture.

Those women who then went on to work in healthcare and car manufacturing increased that risk even further - with breast cancer rates up to four times the national average.

Professor Andrew Watterson, from the university's Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group, said the women could have worked on a range of farms, such as dairy or arable.

Cancer causing chemicals

In the UK, such as parts of East Anglia, there would also be lots of young women working or growing up on farms, he said.

Agricultural jobs also tended to be among the first worked, often during adolescence.

The authors said there was evidence of an association between breast cancer and some pesticides, adding that a large number of pesticides were also hormonally active.

Toxic chemicals, either alone or in combination, may influence the initiation and progression of cancer.

Estimates were that about 4% of all cancers were related to or caused by occupations, he said.

For the study, the researchers looked at women aged 55 or younger. They analysed data from 564 women with breast cancer and 599 women in a control group.

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