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Work and environment

Our environment contains various chemicals and other factors that can increase the risk of cancer. These compounds may be natural, such as radon and solar radiation, or man-made, such as some industrial compounds. We cannot always influence what substances we are exposed to.

Also, we may be exposed in some jobs to carcinogens or, for example, radiation. The most common workplace exposures are to solar radiation, radon, wood dust, asbestos and benzene.

The most common work-related cancer in Finland is mesothelioma (pleural cancer or lung cancer) resulting from handling asbestos and breathing asbestos dust. Other work-related cancers include bladder cancer, leukaemia, liver angiosarcoma, or cancer of the blood vessels of the liver, and skin cancer.

Occupational health and safety authorities supervise the use of hazardous substances in the workplace. The authorities maintain a list of carcinogenic substances. Many such carcinogens are totally banned in Finland. The authorities have also defined rules for the use of hazardous substances.

Employers must ensure the occupational safety of their employees. Therefore, employers must protect employees from chemicals that expose them to the risk of cancer.

Employers must as far as possible reduce the use of carcinogens in the workplace. Carcinogenic substances should be replaced with other substances. If substances cannot be replaced, the level of exposure of workers must be reduced to as low a level as possible.

The employee can, in turn, reduce the risk of cancer at work by following occupational health and safety regulations and instructions.