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The epidemiology of cancer among police officers

Authors

  • Michael Wirth MSPH, PhD,

    1. South Carolina Statewide Cancer Prevention and Control Program, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina
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  • John E. Vena PhD,

    1. Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, College of Public Health, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia
    2. Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, New York
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  • Emily K. Smith MPH,

    1. Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, College of Public Health, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia
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  • Sarah E. Bauer MPH,

    1. Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, College of Public Health, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia
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  • John Violanti PhD,

    1. Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, New York
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  • James Burch MS, PhD

    Corresponding author
    1. South Carolina Statewide Cancer Prevention and Control Program, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina
    2. Dorn Department of Veteran's Affairs Medical Center, Columbia, South Carolina
    • Associate Professor, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Cancer Prevention and Control Program, University of South Carolina, 915 Greene Street, Room 228, Columbia, SC 29208.
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  • Disclosure Statement: The authors report no conflicts of interests.

Abstract

Background

This review summarizes peer-reviewed studies examining cancer risks among police officers. It provides an overview of existing research limitations and uncertainties and the plausible etiologic risk factors associated with cancer in this understudied occupation.

Methods

Previous cancer studies among police officers were obtained via a systematic review of the MEDLINE, CABDirect, and Web of Science bibliographic databases.

Results

Quality observational studies of cancer among police officers are sparse and subject to limitations in exposure assessment and other methods. Results from three studies suggested possible increased mortality risks for all cancers, and cancers of the colon, kidney, digestive system, esophagus, male breast, and testis, as well as Hodgkin's disease. Few incidence studies have been performed, and results have been mixed, although some associations with police work have been observed for thyroid, skin, and male breast cancer.

Conclusions

Police are exposed to a mix of known or suspected agents or activities that increase cancer risk. Epidemiologic evidence to date is sparse and inconsistent. There is a critical need for more research to understand the biological and social processes underlying exposures and the suggested disproportionate risks and to identify effective prevention strategies. Am. J. Ind. Med. 56:439–453, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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