Work-Related Cancer

Work-Related Cancer


Work related cancer is caused from exposure to cancer-causing agents (carcinogens) at work.

Most work-related cancers do not appear until years after exposure to the carcinogen. Incidents of cancer may still be work-related even if the exposure happened many years ago.

It is estimated that up to 1 in 5 incidents of cancer are work related, but because they are not always recognized as being caused on the job and reported as such, the real number is not known. Anyone with an incident of cancer who currently works or previously worked in an environment that potentially put them at risk of exposures should speak to their doctor and workplace representatives about the possibility that it is work-related.

OHCOW Resource

Is Your Cancer Work Related?
What You Can Do About it

FEBRUARY 4, 2021

Topics: Causes of cancer, analyzing data, diagnosis, lung cancer, breast cancer, working with doctors, and more

Reporting Incidents of Cancer

There are many reasons for people who are or have been in the workforce to report incidents of cancer.

  • If the cancer is connected to a workplace, steps can be taken to prevent others from being exposed, preventing future cancer cases.
  • Benefits may be received from WSIB such as lost earnings from work, money to help pay for medical costs and other financial compensation.
  • Recognizing the cause of the exposure provides information for future research.

Determining if an Incident of Cancer is Work-Related

An individual who thinks their cancer might be work-related, can work with doctors, worker representatives and other entities, to:

  • Identify the specific diagnosis of the primary cancer
  • Review the scientific literature to identify known cancer causing agents
  • Review relevant work history and workplace exposures to identify carcinogens that are/were in the environment
  • Assess the exposures to see if they are specific to the type of cancer in question, and are in a quantity and a timeframe that would be consistent with contributing to the development of that cancer.

Contacting the WSIB

A doctor must fill out the WSIB Form 8 confirming that an incident of cancer could be work-related. Contact the WSIB directly.

Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB)

Phone Toll Free: 1-800-387-0750

Working with OHCOW

Occupational health staff (physicians, nurses, hygienists) can assist with information about work related cancers and the exposures associated with them. An individual assessment can be arranged if appropriate. Your doctor can also contact OHCOW for assistance. There is no charge for OHCOW services and workers can contact the clinic directly.

OHCOW Resource

webinar video

Using Scientific Evidence and Principles to Help Determine the Work-Relatedness of Cancer

FEBRUARY 1, 2021

Occupational Cancer Research Centre

Topics: Causes and types of cancer, compensation for cancer, accepted cancer claims, work related cancer in Ontario, and more

More Resources

OHCOW Resource

Knowledge Mobilization for Occupational Disease Prevention

October 20, 2020

Occupational Cancer Research Centre

Topics: Workplace Carcinogens, workers' compensation, presumptive carcinogens, the need for better surveillance, and more

OHCOW Resource

Beyond the Burden: From Cancer Risk to Reduction

November 3, 2017

Occupational Cancer Research Centre, lead speaker Paul Demers

Topics: Kershaw's Canada Project, Sun Safety Programs, Asbestos, Diesel Exhaust, Key Carcinogens and more

OHCOW Resource

International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)

IARC's Mission: Cancer research for cancer prevention

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is the specialized cancer agency of the World Health Organization. The objective of IARC is to promote international collaboration in cancer research.

Common Types of Work-Related Cancer and Their Causes

Lung cancer, mesothelioma, and bladder cancer are the most common work-related cancers.

Cancer Site(s)

Work-related Exposure**


Arsenic, Asbestos, Beryllium, Bis(chloromethyl) ether, Cadmium, Chromium (VI), Coal, Coal-tar pitch, Diesel exhaust, Nickel, Plutonium Radon, Radiation* (X-ray & Gamma), Silica dust, Soot, Tobacco smoking (TS), Acheson process. Painting, Coke production, Hematite mining, Rubber or Aluminum production, Iron and steel founding


Asbestos, Erionite, Fluoro-edenite, Painting


Arsenic, Benzidine, Radiation*, TS, 4-Aminobiphenyl, 2-Naphthylamine, O-Toluidine. Painting. Aluminum, Auramine, Magenta or Rubber production.


Trichloroethylene, Radiation*

Leukemia and/or Lymphoma

Benzene, Formaldehyde, Radiation*, Lindane. Thorium232, Fission products, Rubber production, 1,3Butadiene


Formaldehyde, Wood dust


Nickel, Wood dust, Leather dust, Radium 226, 228


Radiation*, Rubber production


Asbestos, acid mists


Vinyl chloride, Plutonium, Thorium 232, 1,2-Dichloropropane

Blood and Lymph





Radiation. Working at night (probable)

Skin (non-melanoma)

Solar radiation, Radiation*Mineral oils, PAHs, Arsenic, Azathioprine Coaltar, Soot, Shale oils

Skin (melanoma)

Solar radiation, Polychlorinated biphenyls

All cancer sites