Saf Health Work.  2017 Mar;8(1):29-35. 10.1016/

Establishing a Policy Framework for the Primary Prevention of Occupational Cancer: A Proposal Based on a Prospective Health Policy Analysis

  • 1Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
  • 2Occupational Cancer Research Centre, Cancer Care Ontario, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
  • 3CAREX Canada, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada.


Despite our knowledge of the causes of cancer, millions of workers are involuntarily exposed to a wide range of known and suspected carcinogens in the workplace. To address this issue from a policy perspective, we developed a policy framework based on a prospective health policy analysis. Use of the framework was demonstrated for developing policies to prevent cancers associated with diesel engine exhaust (DEE), asbestos, and shift work, three occupational carcinogens with global reach and large cancer impact.
An environmental scan of existing prospective health policy analyses was conducted to select and describe our framework parameters. These parameters were augmented by considerations unique to occupational cancer. Policy-related resources, predominantly from Canada, were used to demonstrate how the framework can be applied to cancers associated with DEE, asbestos, and shift work.
The parameters of the framework were: problem statement, context, jurisdictional evidence, primary prevention policy options, and key policy players and their attributes. Applying the framework to the three selected carcinogens illustrated multiple avenues for primary prevention, including establishing an occupational exposure limit for DEE, banning asbestos, and improving shift schedules. The framework emphasized the need for leadership by employers and government.
To our knowledge, this is the first proposal for a comprehensive policy framework dedicated to the primary prevention of occupational cancer. The framework can be adapted and applied by key policy players in Canada and other countries as a guide of what parameters to consider when developing policies to protect workers’ health.


burden; cancer; occupation; policy framework; primary prevention
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