The global burden of disease due to occupational carcinogens

American Journal of Industrial Medicine. Volume 48, Issue 6, Pages 419 – 431. Accepted: 7 July 2005  [Link]

Timothy Driscoll, MBBS, PhD 1 2 *, Deborah Imel Nelson, PhD 3 4, Kyle Steenland, PhD 5, James Leigh, MD, PhD 6, Marisol Concha-Barrientos, MD, DrPH 7, Marilyn Fingerhut, PhD 4 8, Annette Prüss-Üstün, PhD 4

1School of Public Health, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia
2ELMATOM Pty Ltd., Sydney, Australia
3School of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma, 73019
4Occupational and Environmental Health Unit, Protection of the Human Environment, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland
5Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia
6Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health, School of Public Health, University of Sydney, NSW, Australia
7Gerencia de Salud, Asociaci�n Chilena de Seguridad, Santiago, Chile
8National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Washington, DC

email: Timothy Driscoll (

*Correspondence to Timothy Driscoll, School of Public Health, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.

Work performed at WHO, Geneva and ELMATOM Pty Ltd, Sydney, Australia.
The views in this paper are those of the authors and do not reflect the position of the World Health Organization.

Funded by: The World Health Organisation


Background: The worldwide mortality and morbidity from lung cancer, leukemia, and malignant mesothelioma arising from occupational exposures to carcinogens are described. Cases reported in the year 2000 that resulted from relevant past and current exposures are assessed.

Methods: The proportions of workers exposed to the carcinogens of interest, and their levels of exposure, were estimated using workforce data and the CAREX (CARcinogen EXposure) database. These were combined with relative risk measures (for lung cancer and leukemia) or absolute risk measures (for malignant mesothelioma) to develop estimates of deaths, disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) and attributable fraction (for lung cancer and leukemia).

Results: There were an estimated 152,000 deaths (lung cancer: 102,000; leukemia: 7,000; and malignant mesothelioma: 43,000) and nearly 1.6 million DALYS (lung cancer: 969,000; leukemia: 101,000; and malignant mesothelioma: 564,000) due to exposure to occupational carcinogens.

Conclusions: Occupational carcinogens are an important cause of death and disability worldwide. Am. J. Ind. Med. 48:419-431, 2005. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

Keywords: cancer, occupation, work, deaths, DALYs, global burden , lung, leukemia, mesothelioma