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Keywords:

  • occupational cancer;
  • surveillance;
  • record linkage;
  • case-control

Abstract

Background

Occupational cancer monitoring is important for cancer prevention and public health protection. A surveillance system for identifying occupational cancer risks and cancer cases in Italy that are likely to be of occupational origin using information available in the Italian Social Security archives was created and assessed. Persons employed in the private sector, the employing company, its industrial sector, and years of employment are available in these archives.

Methods

A method to find known occupational hazards was first tested using a case-control approach. Cases were from six Italian cancer registries (CRs) and controls were sampled from source populations and as “exposure” the economic sector of the employing company was used. The potential of using hospital discharge records as case sources was subsequently assessed: these cover larger populations and are available more quickly than CR case series.

Results

In the CR-based study many known occupational cancer risks related to specific industrial sectors were identified. By using cases from hospital discharge records many industries at risk were identified, as well as cases of recent diagnosis likely to be of occupational origin. However, for some industrial sectors (e.g., the chemical industry) the approach was unable to detect any excess risk. Furthermore, information on employees in important areas like agriculture, self-employment, and the public sector is not available in the Social Security archives.

Conclusions

This approach appears to be a promising low-cost method for occupational cancer surveillance, at least for some industries, and can be easily implemented in other countries. Am. J. Ind. Med. 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.