12 ways to reduce your cancer risk


icon-pollutantIn the workplace, protect yourself against cancer-causing substances by following health and safety instructions.

There are many thousands of man-made or natural substances in the environment, including in the workplace, some of which have the potential to cause cancer. Many of these substances are chemicals.

Reducing exposure to cancer-causing substances depends on a combination of actions and policies by governments to protect their citizens from harmful substances, and the actions and responsibilities of individuals to follow advice. Control of cancer-causing chemical substances found in the workplace, in the general environment, or at home require both types of action. Governments need to define policies and put in place regulations (e.g. protection limits, safety zones, bans of chemical substances) and monitor compliance with these regulations; manufacturers or other industries need to tailor their processes to comply with regulations; and employers must provide protection measures for their workers (e.g. protective equipment). As for example, the European Directive 2004/37/EC 4 on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to carcinogens or mutagens at work states that the employer shall regularly assess and manage the risk of exposure to carcinogens to prevent workers’ exposure; make information about number of exposed workers, preventive measures, etc. available to the competent authority if requested; and inform the workers if abnormal exposures happened.

Individuals can also contribute to a healthier environment, for instance by helping to decrease air pollution by using cars less. As a recommendation to individuals to prevent cancer, following health and safety instructions in the workplace is essential.

Other important points are: (i) cancers of occupational origin are preventable, which emphasizes that protection of workers is essential and needs to be endorsed and demanded by the workforce; (ii) many regulations are in place that have reduced exposure to many of the cancer-causing substances, but there is still room for improvement.