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Working as hairdresser, accountant raises ovarian cancer risk - research

Reproductive Health
 Working for ten years or more as a hairdresser, barber, beautician, or related job was associated with a three times greater risk of ovarian cancer. [iStockphoto]

A new statistical analysis found that women who work as hairdressers, accountants, or in the construction or clothing industry may have an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer.

According to statistics, nearly 20,000 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2023. Commonly known factors for ovarian cancer include advanced age, having a family history of ovarian cancer, not having children or breastfeeding, having multiple partners and only using oral contraceptives for a brief period.

Other factors that raise the risk of this type of cancer include environmental exposures, including specific chemicals and compounds in the workplace.

Yet, few studies have explored female exposure to possible carcinogens in the workforce or if any specific career might make a woman more vulnerable to agents that could cause ovarian cancer.

A population-based study published on July 10 in Occupational and Environmental Medicine analysed the lifetime occupational histories of 491 women with ovarian cancer and 897 without the condition to determine if certain occupations raise the risk of ovarian cancer.

The researchers also examined the link between 29 of the most common agents found in the workplace and cancer risks. After analysing the data, the research team found that working for ten years or more as a hairdresser, barber, beautician, or related job was associated with a three times greater risk of ovarian cancer. Moreover, working ten or more years as an accountant doubled the ovarian cancer risk, and occupations in construction tripled the risk.

Long-term employment in the clothing sector, including embroidery, was associated with an 85 per cent higher risk of ovarian cancer.

 Ovarian cancer occurs when abnormal cells in ovaries or fallopian tubes grow and multiply out of control. [iStockphoto]

The team also found cancer risk was linked to more cumulative exposure to chemicals including: cosmetic talc, hydrogen peroxide, ammonia, synthetic fibres, hair dust, polyester fibres, organic dyes and pigments, cellulose, formaldehyde, propellant gases, aliphatic alcohols, ethanol, isopropanol, fluorocarbons, alkanes (C5-C17), mononuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons from petroleum and bleaches.

Because the hair and cosmetic industry is associated with using many agents, the researchers couldn't determine if exposure to one or a combination of agents drove the increased cancer risk found in the findings.

They also couldn't determine whether other workplace factors were involved but they identified 12 agents commonly present in these occupations that were suggestively associated with ovarian cancer risks. Out of the 12 agents, one agent, formaldehyde, is categorised as a Group One carcinogen.

In contrast, the findings suggest that professional nurses and educators may have a lower risk of ovarian cancer.

Though the findings suggest that specific occupations and workplace exposures may raise the risk of ovarian cancer, the study authors note that the implications of these results are limited.

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