What is work-related cancer?

Work-related cancer is any cancer that results from exposure to cancer-causing agents at work. Cancer-causing agents are also known as carcinogens. Most work-related cancers do not appear until years after exposure to the carcinogen. Even if you were exposed many years ago, your cancer may still be related to your work.

How common is work-related cancer?

It is estimated that up to 1 in 5 cancers are work-related. The total number of cancers caused by work is not known, partly because they are not always reported. Some types of cancer are more likely to be caused by work than others. Work-related cancer is more common in men than women.3

Why is it important that I report my cancer?

  • If your exposures are identified as causing cancer, steps may be taken to prevent your co-workers and others from being exposed, preventing future cancer cases.
  • You may be eligible for benefits from WSIB such as lost earnings from work, money to help pay for your medical costs and other financial compensation.
  • It brings attention to this important topic and provides information for future research.

What are the steps to determining that my cancer is caused by my work?

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

What are common types of work-related cancer and their causes?

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

Cancer Sites   Work-Related Exposure**
Lung   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
Mesothelioma   Asbestos, Erionite, Fluoro-edenite, Painting
Bladder   Arsenic, Benzidine, Radiation*, TS, 4-Aminobiphenyl, 2-Naphthylamine, O-Toluidine. Painting. Aluminum, Auramine, Magenta or Rubber production.
Kidney   Trichloroethylene, Radiation*
Leukemia and/or lymphoma   Benzene, Formaldehyde, Radiation*, Lindane. Thorium232, Fission products, Rubber production, 1,3Butadiene,
Nasopharynx   Formaldehyde, Wood dust,
Sino-nasal   Nickel, Wood dust, Leather dust, Radium 226, 228
Stomach   Radiation*, Rubber production
Larynx   Asbestos, acid mists
Liver   Vinyl chloride, Plutonium, Thorium 232, 1,2-Dichloropropane
Blood and lymph   1,3-Butadiene
Ovary   Asbestos
Breast   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   2,3,7,8-Tetrachlordibenzo-para-dioxin

** This is not a complete list. See More Information on back page

What should I do if I think my cancer is work-related?

  • Ask your doctor if they know of a link between your cancer and your work. If they do, ask that they complete a WSIB Form 8 to initiate a claim.
  • If you believe your cancer is work-related you can contact the WSIB directly. 

The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB)

Toll Free: 1-800-387-0750


  • Ask your worker or union health and safety or WSIB representative for help.
  • Contact the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW). Occupational health staff (physicians, nurses, hygienists) can assist with information about workrelated 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. 

More about Cancer Causing Exposures

The list provided focuses on occupational exposures which are accepted by international experts as causing cancer in humans. Some occupations, such as firefighting and painting have higher rates of cancer. There are nonoccupational exposures that can cause these cancers as well. Both occupational and non-occupational causes may contribute to a cancer at the same time. There are other exposures which are classified as probable or possible causes of cancer which may have

contributed to your cancer. For a full list of these exposures please visit the International Agency for Research on Cancer website:


http:// monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Classification/Table4.pdf


Printable brochure here (2015) or here (2016).

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