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December 17, 2009

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Breast cancer fails to make Industrial Injuries list

The Industrial Injuries Advisory Council has concluded that neither

breast cancer nor ischaemic heart disease (IHD) fulfil the criteria of

the Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit scheme, following a review

of the link between both diseases and shift-working.

The Council undertook a review of evidence following a decision in March 2009 by the Danish National Board for Industrial Injuries to allow compensation to women who developed breast cancer following night-shift work (typically of more than 20 years).

The Council also noted a growing body of evidence relating to the possible association between shift working and IHD.

The criteria for diseases to be considered industrial injuries differ in the UK from Denmark, with the UK system requiring verification of not only a causal link between an agent and a disease but also a doubling of risk in those exposed to the agent in question.

In considering the evidence on breast cancer, the IIAC found that only two small studies showed a doubling of risk, and pointed out that the Danish National Board’s own review described the evidence for a causal link as “limited”.

A review of the evidence on IHD and shift work confirmed that risks of the disease, if present, “are only mildly elevated, with potential for certain non-occupational factors to confound relationships”.

The IIAC said it would take note of an HSE-commissioned study of shift working and breast cancer, which is due to report in 2011.

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