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Home > Personal Injury > Industrial Diseases > Occupational cancers

Occupational cancers

Exposure to carcinogenic substances in the workplace

According to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) around 13,500 new cases of work-related cancer are diagnosed each year. The HSE also say that over 8,000 people die each year because of their exposure to carcinogenic substances in the workplace.

If you have developed cancer that you believe is a result of your exposure to substances at work, you may be able to make a claim for industrial disease compensation.

Personal injury news

Clear Answers personal injury solicitors deal with a large number of industrial disease compensation claims each year, including those resulting from negligent exposure to hazardous substances which are known to cause occupational cancers.

Please visit our personal injury news section to view details of these stories and other successful personal injury compensation claims that Clear Answers' solicitors have been involved in.

Personal injury news

Please select one of the links below for more information and to see whether Clear Answers may be able to help you make a claim for industrial disease compensation.

Classification of carcinogenic substances

A carcinogen is a substance which can damage human cells, making them more likely to become cancerous. Hazardous substances are classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) according to the level of risk they pose to humans.

There are 5 categories, the highest risk being Group 1, “The agent is carcinogenic to humans”. However, the second category, Group 2A, “The agent is probably carcinogenic to humans” is also considered high risk. The remaining groups are 2B (“possibly carcinogenic”), 3 (“not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans”) and 4 (“probably not carcinogenic”).

There is a view that if it is possible for a substance to cause cancer in humans, it should be treated as if it will, and that substances in both groups 1 and 2A should be removed completely from the workplace wherever possible.

Over 100 substances have so far been classified as definitely carcinogenic to humans. The list includes arsenic, benzene, chromium, diesel exhaust fumes (which contain PAH - Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons) as well as alchohol and sunlight, plutonium and of course, asbestos. A full list of hazardous substances which have been evaluated can be found on the IARC website.

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What is cancer?

Cancer is the condition where cells are growing out of control. A benign tumour (non-cancerous) lacks the ability to spread to other parts of the body, but a malignant tumour if left untreated will grow and can spread to other parts of the body.

There are over 200 types of cancer, affecting all parts of the body. Examples include skin cancer or melanoma, lung cancer, bladder cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer and liver cancer.

Work-related cancers develop as a result of exposure to radiation, the sun (affecting outdoor workers) or other carcinogenic substances such as diesel exhaust fumes, asbestos fibres, and many other chemicals still used in the workplace today.

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Cancer survival rates

The survival rates of cancers vary considerably. Asbestos, for example has the highest incidence of fatality due to occupational exposure. The terminal asbestos condition mesothelioma which affects over 2,500 people each year, is always fatal with over 50% of patients surviving for less than 12 months from diagnosis. Other cancers, such as skin cancer, which affects 100,000 people each year, can be treated and has a survival rate of 98%.

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Cancer incidence rates in industry

Some industries are known to have higher cancer incidence rates than others. Industries such as transport, painting, welding, textiles, and construction, as well as many manufacturing processes, still use substances which are known or suspected to be carcinogenic.

Many cancers can take decades to develop after the exposure to the carcinogenic substance has taken place, and the sufferer may have left work, or retired, before their symptoms show.

Although it can be difficult to prove a direct link between the cancer and the exposure in the workplace, our specialist industrial disease lawyers have extensive experience of bringing successful compensation claims for these types of personal injury.

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The duty of your employer

The Health & Safety at Work Act imposes a legal responsibility on employers to protect not only the immediate safety of their employees, but also their long-term health.

The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations requires employers to carry out risk assessments in the workplace to identify potential risks, including those likely to cause cancer. Employers should always look to remove carcinogenic substances from the workplace. Only if removal is not possible should employers then look at how they can minimise the risk of exposure of employees to the carcinogenic substances, and that may include providing personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves.

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Claiming compensation for cancer in the workplace

If you believe that you have developed an illness as a result of exposure in your workplace, make sure that you seek medical advice and that your treating doctors are made aware of your suspicion as to the cause. Keep details of all doctors visited and treatments, and for any injury related expenses.

Our specialist personal injury lawyers will be able to advise you whether a claim for compensation is possible, give guidance and assistance on how the claim can be pursued and ensure that all the correct evidence is obtained to secure the best result for you.

Telephone us now on 0800 783 9019 or complete one of our online compensation claim forms and a representative will contact you as soon as possible.

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