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Government and ministries Media

Work-related cancer could be prevented

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health
6.3.2017 12.10 | Published in English on 8.3.2017 at 7.33
News item

It is estimated that 5.3–8.4 per cent of all cancers diagnosed in Finland are work-related. In Europe, workplace exposure is estimated to cause some 120,000 cases of cancer each year.

Finland’s challenges in the prevention of work-related cancer were discussed in a seminar organised in Helsinki on 6 March.

The leading cause of work-related cancer is asbestos. This is the case in Finland as well. Although Finland and many other countries have banned the use of asbestos, it will continue to cause cancer on a large scale even in the coming years: the long latency periods for cancer mean that people are diagnosed with cancer some 20–30 years after exposure.

The Finnish Registry of Occupational Diseases records the cancer cases that have been approved or proposed as occupational diseases entitling to compensation. In the past ten years there have been 171–222 cases annually. Workplace exposure can also increase susceptibility to cancer even when it is not the main causal factor for cancer. These cases are not shown in the statistics.

Workplaces must identify carcinogenic agents and investigate exposure to them. Exposure to carcinogenic agents can be prevented in the same way as exposure to other chemicals. The EU has stepped up efforts to prevent work-related cancer. It has proposed new binding limit values for carcinogenic agents and launched a campaign disseminating best practices to prevent work-related cancer.

A webcast of the seminar on the prevention of work-related cancer is available at


Riitta Sauni, Ministerial Counsellor, tel. +358 295 163 147, [email protected]

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