Prostate Cancer


Prostate cancer, the most prevalent cancer among men, was only considered a risk for cadmium-exposed workers. Studies have now linked prostate cancer to exposure to pesticides, metalworking fluids and other occupational exposures.

Prostate cancer links to cadmium, arsenic and some pesticides, notably herbicides and other endocrine disrupters. Excess risks have been found for exposure to metallic dusts and metalworking fluids, PAHs (Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) and liquid fuel combustion products, and farmers and pesticide applicators.

Become a workplace detective - Finding out if there is a workplace risk requires union vigilance. That means doing your own detective work.

Unite union have produced a fact sheet aimed to:

• Highlight some relevant workplace health and safety issues

• Raise awareness of new campaigns on prostate cancer

• Give guidance on a negotiating and campaigning agenda

Prostate cancer facts

  • Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men

  • It accounts for over a quarter of all cancers in men in the UK.

  • In the UK, over 47,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year – that is 130 new cases every day.

  • There has been a 16% increase over the last 10 years.

  • 1 in 4 black African-Caribbean and black African men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in the UK – that’s double the overall 1 in 8 risk faced by all men in the UK.

  • Prostate cancer mainly affects men over the age of 50 and risk increases with age.

  • Black men are increasingly being diagnosed from age 40.

  • Men are at higher risk of developing prostate cancer if there is a family history of prostate or breast cancer.

  • Men with one close relative (father, mother, brother, sister) diagnosed with breast or prostate cancer have twice the risk; 2 close relatives, 3 times more likely; one relative under 60 years on diagnosis, 4 times; 1 relative under 60 and died from it, 8 times.

  • In the UK more than 10,500 men die from prostate cancer each year – one man dies every hour, accounting for 13% of all male deaths.

  • Early detection may prevent death from prostate cancer although there are few symptoms at early stage.

According to Health and Safety Executive (HSE) research, past occupational exposure to known and probable carcinogens (such as asbestos, diesel engine exhaust emissions and silica) is estimated to account for about 5% of cancer deaths and 4% of cancer registrations currently occurring each year in Britain.

We can use our rights at work to help prevent cancer:

• Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH). COSHH impose a range of duties on employers to protect workers’ health and safety from the presence of or use of hazardous chemical agents (as well as biological agents). Strict control of substances or work processes which may cause cancer is essential and employers should always try to use a less harmful substance or process.

Safety reps should ask for the material safety data sheet of chemicals or preparations being used in work and be involved in risk assessments, which are a legal requirement under COSHH.

The employer should not only provide appropriate protective clothing but provide it free of charge, keep it in clean working order

Provide proper washing facilities to wash hands before going to the toilet etc.

• Toilet facilities available at all working locations and access when needed

• Reasonable adjustments for individuals undergoing treatment for prostate cancer - access to toilet facilities. One key symptom is urgency to urinate - urinary retention is another risk factor.

Shiftwork and work at night has been linked to a wide range of health problems, including breast cancer (1), prostate cancer (2), non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (3), heightened accident risk (4), heart disease risk factors (5) and pregnancy problems (6). There is emerging evidence that these health effects combined make shiftworkers, particularly women shiftworkers, far more likely to take early ill-health retirement (7).

• Black African and Afro-Caribbean men are twice as likely to get prostate cancer than other men, and have worse outcomes on diagnosis, often at younger age.

Work with your employer to raise awareness about prostate cancer and its prevention.

See Rob Miguel Unite the Union presentation on Prostate cancer awareness

See research papers:

The Invisibility of Occupational Diseases: The Relationship Between Working Conditions and the Diagnosis of Prostate Cancer | SpringerLink

Prostate Cancer and Asbestos: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis - PubMed (

Low-dose hexavalent chromium(VI) exposure promotes prostate cancer cell proliferation by activating MAGEB2-AR signal pathway - ScienceDirect

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