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5 workplace cancer risks you may not be aware of

November 2018

You may be aware that some lifestyle factors such as smoking or alcohol can cause cancer, but are you aware of potential cancer risks in your workplace? In Australia, sadly around 5000 work-related cancers are diagnosed each year.

So what are some of the most common occupational carcinogens in Australian workplaces and what can you do to minimise your risk? Here are five risks you should be aware of:


  • Construction materials, insulation products, gaskets, friction brake products, and vehicle and plant equipment that was installed, built, manufactured, commissioned or designed prior to 1 January 2004 are likely to contain asbestos. Make sure you know what to do if you come across asbestos such as enclosing asbestos complete use wet, non-destructive methods for removal. Our kNOw asbestos online course will help you get up to speed.

Diesel engine exhaust (DEE)

  • It is estimated that 1.2 million workers in Australia are exposed to DEE. Walls covered in soot, a blue, black or smoky haze in the workplace or complaints of sore eyes, an irritated throat or nausea are all signs that DEE could be present in your workplace. A summary of control measures can be viewed here.

Silica dust

  • Silica dust is 100 times smaller than a grain of sand, so you can be breathing it in without knowing. The mandatory limit for silica dust exposure in Australia is  0.1mg/m3 averaged over an eight-hour period Control measures such as using safe construction, planning and design as well as the correct equipment will help reduce risks. For a full summary of control measures view here

Ultraviolet radiation (UVR)

  • Temperature is not related to solar UVR strength. We can't feel solar UVR so our skin can be damaged without us knowing.  If you work outdoors you should use sun protection all year round. This includes slipping on protective clothing, slopping on SPF30 or higher sunscreen, slapping on a hat, seeking shade and sliding on sunglasses.

MDF board 

  • MDF board is a timber product made from hardwood and softwood fibres that are glued together with wax and a resin adhesive containing urea-formaldehyde. Both wood dust and formaldehyde are Group 1 carcinogens. When working with wood products, dust and free formaldehyde are released. Formaldehyde is absorbed by the dust particles which may cause cancer when either breathed in or come into contact with the skin, frequently, over a long time period. 


What can I do?

All employers should be aware of the risks in their industry ensure the risk is removed or reduced using the risk management process and the hierarchy of risk control.  Workers must also take reasonable care of their own health and safety and follow instructions and work health and safety policies.

If you are concerned about the adequacy of control measures in the workplace, contact:

  1. Your workplace supervisor or management
  2. Your workplace health and safety representative or union representative
  3. Safe Work Australia

October is Safe Work Month and Cancer Council's kNOw Workplace Cancer initiative has released a range of new resources to help educate workers and create a safer workplace by minimising the risk of exposure to common workplace carcinogens. You can find them all and more information at


Prostate Cancer Awareness Month in September

September 2018

Cancer Council Australia is recognising Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, held in September.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in men in Australia after non-melanoma skin cancer, with around 3200 deaths in Australia each year. It is most common in men over the age of 60, although the risk is higher for younger men with a strong family history of certain cancers.

There are no tests available with sufficient accuracy to screen the male population for early stages of prostate cancer. However, early detection and treatment can significantly improve prostate cancer outcomes.  Men concerned about prostate cancer should talk to their doctor and make an informed choice about whether to have any tests designed to find early signs of prostate cancer, in view of the potential risks and benefits.

Cancer Council offers a range of information and support services online, in person and by phone for those affected by cancer.

Cancer Council 13 11 20 provides a confidential telephone support and counselling service run by Cancer Councils in each state and territory for the cost of a local call. Some states have extended hours and multilingual services.

The Cancer Council Online Community offers a safe and supportive online site for people affected by cancer, their families and friends.

Cancer Connect is a telephone peer support service that connects someone with cancer with a specially trained volunteer who has gone through a similar cancer experience. This service is free and confidential.

Cancer Council publishes a number of resources to help support those affected by prostate cancer. Our publication, Understanding Prostate Cancer, has been developed to help you understand prostate cancer, how it is diagnosed and what treatments are available. Free copies are available for download on our website or by ordering online from your local Cancer Council.

Cancer Council Victoria has also published What to expect, Optimal Care Pathways which are tumour specific resources mapping the patient journey.

For more information on prostate cancer visit our website.

How you can help

Other people's personal experience of prostate cancer can be source of support for those affected by a cancer diagnosis.

If you would like to share your experience of prostate cancer, visit our Share your cancer story page




McCabe Centre designated as World Health Organization Collaborating Centre

September 2018

The McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer is now a designated World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Law and Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs), focusing on the effective use of law to prevent and control NCDs.

Globally, NCDs ? mainly cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes ? are the leading cause of death, driven largely by four main modifiable risk factors: tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, and harmful use of alcohol.

NCDs are a major cause of poverty and a barrier to economic and social development. With four out of five people with a NCD living in low- and middle-income countries, the prevention and control of NCDs is a critical development issue.

McCabe Centre Director, Jonathan Liberman, said the rapid rise in NCDs is hindering poverty reduction efforts in low- and middle-income countries, in particular by diminishing resources within families, reducing workforce productivity, and placing tremendous demands on health systems.

?In low-resource settings, healthcare costs for NCDs can quickly drain household resources and leave already vulnerable families without breadwinners ? perpetuating and deepening the cycle of poverty,? Mr Liberman said.

The McCabe Centre collaboration with WHO will support development outcomes by building the capacity of low- and middle-income countries to implement legal interventions to reduce exposure to NCD risk factors; and improve laws to advance equitable healthcare as part of achieving universal health coverage.

The work will be carried out through a wide range of capacity building activities, including the McCabe Centre's International Legal Training Program, knowledge sharing, and resource development.

Mr Liberman said this collaboration will see the McCabe Centre strengthen ties with the WHO, in particular in the Western Pacific region, where NCDs are responsible for 80 per cent of all deaths. 

?Empowering others with the knowledge and skills to implement laws to reduce the enormous NCD burden on our closest neighbours is critical for poverty reduction and sustainable development in the region.

?Through our practical training and knowledge sharing, we support governments to introduce effective laws, and to defend them, when they are challenged in courts and tribunals,? said Mr Liberman.

The designation as a WHO collaborating Centre reaffirms the McCabe Centre's reputation as the only centre of its kind promoting law as an effective and essential tool in the prevention and control of NCDs.

The McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer, established in 2012, is a Melbourne-based joint initiative of Cancer Council Victoria, the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), and Cancer Council Australia.


September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

August 2018

September is International Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, a time when cancer organisations around the world put the spotlight on children's cancer and the need to improve diagnosis, treatment and outcomes.

Sadly around 750 children aged 0 - 14 are diagnosed with cancer in Australia every year and 100 will die from the disease.

Cancer Council Queensland has funded and managed the Australian Paediatric Cancer Registry since 2004 ? one of only a few national clinical registers of childhood cancer in the world. The registry shows, that while cancer remains the most common cause of disease-related death for children aged 1-14 in Australia, overall childhood cancer survival rates around the country is increasing. But there is still a need for further research and support services for families affected.

Between 2013 and 2017, Cancer Council collectively invested $10 million in cancer research specifically identified as ?children's cancer?.  Around the country, research projects are underway with the aim of improving diagnosis and treatment for children.

For instance, sixty years ago, a diagnosis of leukaemia was nearly always a death sentence for a child. Today, the vast majority will survive this condition, thanks in part to the work of researchers such as Professor Murray Norris at Children's Cancer Institute Australia. With seed funding from Cancer Council, Professor Norris has developed the ?Minimal Residual Disease? test that can detect the smallest number of leukaemia cells. Further funding from Cancer Council meant the MRD test could be refined and optimised for use in a national clinical trial for patients diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

At the start of the clinical trial, the survival rate for children with high risk leukaemia was 35%. At the end of the trial, the survival rate had doubled to 70%. As technology advances, and with the support of Cancer Council, Professor Norris believes we can achieve a cancer free future for all Australians. 

You can find more information on Cancer Council research via our website.

A critical part of Cancer Council's work is providing information and support to families impacted by cancer. Our 13 11 20 phone number is accessible to all Australians impacted by cancer and acts as a gateway to our other cancer services and information.

We also publish a range of resources to help support families experiencing cancer. Our Talking to Kids About Cancer publication is designed to help when discussing all stages of a cancer diagnosis with children from infants to teenagers. In addition, Cancer in the School Community assists school staff to support students, families and colleagues affected by cancer.

Cancer Council Victoria also publish Life During and After Childhood Cancer, which explores a range of aspects related to cancer ranging from diet and fatigue to school issues.

For more information on children's cancers visit our website


Noticed something missing from our logo?

June 2018

We've removed the 'A' and 'O' in support of a worthy cause. Australian Red Cross Blood Service needs 25,000 blood donation each week. Are you the #MissingType? Join Cancer Council in support of International Missing Type:


Find out more! #MissingType


Highlighting the best primary care and cancer research in Australia ? Symposium 2018

May 2018

Cancer Council Australia CEO, Professor Sanchia Aranda, will be participating at the PC4 2018 Scientific Symposium. Professor Aranda will be part of the session, The Burden of Over-Diagnosis in Primary Care.

The symposium will be held at Darling Harbour, Sydney on Friday 25th May. The symposium will showcase PC4 supported research as well as the best primary care and cancer research from around Australia, covering prevention and early diagnosis, shared care, survivorship and palliative care.

For further information and to register, go to


World Cancer Day 2018: "We Can, I Can"

February 2018

This Sunday, February 4, individuals, organisations and governments around the globe will come together for World Cancer Day.

The day, coordinated by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), is held to raise awareness and education about cancer, and aims to save millions of preventable deaths around the world each year.

The theme of "We Can, I Can" emphasises the need for governments and individuals to take action, focussing on what communities and members of the public can do to help save lives by achieving greater equity in cancer care, and by making cancer a priority at the highest political levels.

According to the UICC, more than 8 million people die of cancer around the world each year. At a local level, Cancer Council research released this week showed that the number of Australians living with and surviving cancer will rise to almost 1.9 million people in 2040 - an increase from 1 in 22 Australians today to 1 in 18 in the next 22 years.

Professor Sanchia Aranda, CEO of Cancer Council Australia and President of the UICC, said that as our population ages and grows, more Australians will be impacted by cancer as they or someone they love will be affected by cancer. 

"This all shows the growing need for more cancer support, as well as more awareness around prevention, early detection and research," she said.

"We have a lot of work to do when dealing with inequalities in outcome by cancer type and between different demographic groups in our community, and will face more challenges as many older cancer survivors will be living with the long-term effects of cancer and its treatment.

"But there's a lot of good news for Australians too ? a global report released last month showed that we're in the top four countries in the world when it comes to cancer survival rates."

Professor Aranda encouraged all Australians to get involved with World Cancer Day.

"Whether you're part of a business, a community organisation, a government department or are acting as an individual, you can visit the World Cancer Day website to find materials and information on how to make your voice heard.

"You can think big, by running your own World Cancer Day campaign, or just simply share the messages on Facebook, Twitter or face to face conversations. Every action has an impact."

Visit to find out more, and to add your voice to the online campaign.


A new era for cervical cancer prevention in Australia

December 2017

Today marks the start of a new, more effective and more sophisticated screening program for cervical cancer prevention in Australia. 

Replacing the two-yearly Pap smear, the new test ? which looks for the human papillomavirus (HPV) ? is required only once every five years, and will help reduce cervical cancer rates and deaths by at least 20%.

Professor Karen Canfell, Chair of the Cancer Screening and Immunisation Committee for Cancer Council Australia, says the program will benefit Australian women in a number of ways.

She explained that while the old Pap smear test identified abnormalities that had already occurred in the cervix, the new test looks for HPV, the cause of almost all cervical cancer cases, before precancerous changes can even develop.

?The new test is more sophisticated in that it allows scientists to look for the virus that, if left untreated, can cause the cell changes that can lead to cervical cancer,? Prof Canfell said.

?By detecting the main precursor to cervical cancer we can help prevent more cancer cases from occurring, and take action sooner.?

Other changes mean that women only need to be tested from the age of 25, compared to the previous recommendation of 18-20 years. Women will be sent an invitation to take part in the program around their 25th birthday.

Women who are overdue for the Pap smear, or due for another test, are encouraged to speak to their doctor about the new program.

While the changes will run in conjunction with the HPV vaccination program offered to teens, Prof Canfell emphasised the need for all women to take part, even those who are immunised against the virus. 

?All eligible women should take part in the cervical screening program,? Prof Canfell said.

?And any woman who experiences any symptoms such as bleeding, pain or discharge should see a GP straightaway, regardless of when their last test was.?

Learn more about the new program at


Cancer Council Australia and Childhood Cancer Awareness Month 2017

September 2017

Cancer Council Australia is recognising Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, held in September every year.

The international awareness month focuses on children's cancers and highlights the need for further research and improved treatments and outcomes for young patients.

Childhood cancers remain the most common cause of disease-related deaths for children aged 0-14 in Australia. Sadly, it is estimated that 650 Australian children aged 0-14 years were diagnosed with cancer in 2016.

The cancer types that are most common in children are different to those which are most common in adults. Children's cancers are more often found in faster growing tissues such as blood, bone and bone marrow, lymph, muscles, kidney and liver, and as a result, the most common childhood cancers include leukaemia, Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphomas, neuroblastoma, soft tissue sarcoma and kidney cancer.

While childhood cancer is devastating for the child, family and community affected by a diagnosis, there is some positive news: data from the Australian Paediatric Cancer Registry, funded and managed by Cancer Council Queensland, shows that the overall childhood cancer survival rate around the country is increasing.

In Queensland, for example, 86 per cent of children (aged 0-19) will now survive at least five years from diagnosis, up from around 70 per cent in 1986. One improvement of note is the five-year survival rate for lymphoid leukaemia: in the late 1980s, the survival rate was around 59%, but today that has risen to around 93%.

Research from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare echoes the positive trend, showing that more children with cancer are surviving than years gone by.

Those who do survive will often face difficulties with physical and mental health issues in the future, further highlighting the need for more research and support for the families affected.

Cancer Council helps families affected by childhood cancers in a variety of ways while continuing to call for more research funding into the area.

Families affected by childhood cancer are welcome to call Cancer Council on 13 11 20 for information and support, and to get further details about how the organisation can help their family.

Other resources include the Talking to Kids About Cancer publication, which is available as an ebook or a downloadable PDF. The guide gives practical, age-appropriate advice for navigating these difficult discussions with children.

Teachers and those who work in schools can also download the Cancer in the School Community publication, which gives tips for assisting conversations about cancer with children from age four through to the teen years.   

Members of the public can call 13 11 20 to order a hard copy of both these publications.


Vale Clive Deverall AM

March 2017

Cancer Council Australia extends its condolences to the family of Clive Deverall AM, who died last weekend after almost two decades? living with a rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Clive was a passionate consumer representative on Cancer Council Australia's Board from 2007 to 2010. For many years prior, he was long-serving CEO of Cancer Council Western Australia, where reforms he led from the late 1970s to the late ?90s continue to be appreciated to this day.

Clive is survived by two sons, a step-son, two grandchildren, a sister and his wife Noreen. Our thoughts are with them; and our thanks, for Clive's extraordinary contribution to cancer control in Australia.


This page was last updated on: Friday, March 29, 2019

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