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Construction workers at greatest cancer risk

Nearly 4,000 construction workers a year are dying from occupation-related cancer, new research shows.

Asbestos is mostly to blame, but diesel exhaust and other carcinogens such as silica are also significant factors. Skin cancer is also an issue.

The study, funded by the Health & Safety Executive and published in the British Journal of Cancer, found that 8,000 cancer deaths in Britain each year are linked to occupations. 

Around 70% of the occupation-related deaths in construction workers were linked to asbestos.

Lead author Dr Lesley Rushton, an occupational epidemiologist based at Imperial College London, said: "This study gives us a clear insight into how the jobs people do affect their risk of cancer. We hope these findings will help develop ways of reducing health risks caused by exposure to carcinogens in the workplace.

"One of the best ways we can beat the disease is by preventing it in the first place.

Sara Hiom, director of information at Cancer Research UK, said: "It's very worrying to see so many people developing and dying from occupation-related cancers. A large proportion of the deaths are a result of exposure to asbestos in past decades and improved safety measures should mean that in the next generation or so we will see this number tail off dramatically.

"At this point, we expect the government and employers to take fast and appropriate action to minimise the risks faced by workers and Cancer Research UK will be watching this closely.

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