Occupational Exposures and Ovarian Cancer Risk


Ovarian cancer is a significant public health concern, affecting women worldwide. While extensive research has been conducted to identify risk factors for this disease, the relationship between occupational exposures and ovarian cancer remains a complex and relatively underexplored area.

In a groundbreaking population-based case-control study conducted in Montreal, Canada, spanning from 2011 to 2016, researchers sought to unravel this intricate connection.

This article delves into the details of this comprehensive study, shedding light on its methodology, findings, and implications for public health.


The study encompassed 491 cases of ovarian cancer and 897 controls, making it one of the largest and most rigorously conducted investigations into the potential occupational risk factors for this type of cancer. The research team collected detailed lifetime occupational histories from each participant, meticulously documenting their work experiences. These occupational histories were later analyzed by an industrial hygienist who assigned specific codes to denote the participant’s occupation and industry.

Associations between ovarian cancer risk and various occupations and industries were evaluated through a series of statistical analyses. The Canadian job-exposure matrix was employed to link the job codes with specific occupational exposures. This linkage allowed for the generation of exposure histories for numerous agents, providing a rich dataset for the subsequent analysis. Logistic regression was used to estimate odds ratios (OR) and their corresponding 95% confidence intervals (CI), while controlling for multiple covariates.


The findings of this extensive study have unveiled several intriguing associations between occupational exposures and ovarian cancer risk. Notably, elevated odds ratios were observed for individuals who had worked in specific occupations and industries for extended periods. These associations include:

  • Accountants (OR 2.05; 95% CI 1.10 to 3.79)
  • Hairdressers, Barbers, Beauticians, and Related Workers (OR 3.22; 95% CI 1.25 to 8.27)
  • Sewers and Embroiderers (OR 1.85; 95% CI 0.77 to 4.45)
  • Salespeople, Shop Assistants, and Demonstrators (OR 1.45; 95% CI 0.71 to 2.96)

Furthermore, specific industries also demonstrated increased ovarian cancer risk:

  • Retail Trade (OR 1.59; 95% CI 1.05 to 2.39)
  • Construction (OR 2.79; 95% CI 0.52 to 4.83)

Intriguingly, the study identified 18 agents that exhibited a positive association with ovarian cancer risk, with odds ratios exceeding 1.42 for high cumulative exposure compared to no exposure. These agents included:

  • Cosmetic talc
  • Ammonia
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Hair dust
  • Synthetic fibers
  • Polyester fibers
  • Organic dyes and pigments
  • Cellulose
  • Formaldehyde
  • Propellant gases
  • Aliphatic alcohols
  • Ethanol
  • Isopropanol
  • Fluorocarbons
  • Alkanes (C5–C17)
  • Mononuclear aromatic hydrocarbons
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons from petroleum
  • Bleaches


This extensive case-control study conducted in Montreal, Canada, has provided crucial insights into the potential links between occupational exposures and ovarian cancer risk. The findings suggest that certain occupations, industries, and specific occupational exposures may be associated with an increased risk of ovarian cancer.

However, it is essential to acknowledge that further research is needed to solidify these observations and provide a more comprehensive understanding of the complex interplay between occupational exposures and ovarian cancer.

The implications of this research are significant, as they underscore the importance of occupational safety and the need for protective measures in specific work environments. Workers in high-risk occupations and industries should be made aware of these potential risks and, where possible, provided with preventive measures to minimize exposure.

Data Availability Statement

In the spirit of transparency and scientific collaboration, the researchers involved in this study are committed to making the data collected during this research publicly available. Researchers, policymakers, and interested parties are encouraged to reach out to the study’s principal investigators for access to the dataset, facilitating further analysis and verification of the findings.

In conclusion, this study represents a significant step forward in understanding the relationship between occupational exposures and ovarian cancer risk. While more research is needed to confirm these associations, the study’s results offer valuable insights into potential preventive strategies and workplace interventions that could ultimately reduce the burden of ovarian cancer among certain occupational groups.

reference link:https://oem.bmj.com/content/80/9/489


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