Women with farming and industry jobs have an increased chance of developing breast cancer, a new study has shown.

While cancer research has long explored the links between the most common cancer among women and factors like lifestyle, behaviour and the environment, the study - done by Canadian researchers - is one of the first to look at the impact of a woman's job.

Published in the journal Environmental Health, the purpose of the study was to look at "possible links between breast cancer risk and occupation", with a focus on jobs in the agricultural and industrial sectors.

The study looked at 1006 women with breast cancer and 1146 women without it living in counties in Ontario known for their agricultural and industrial industries. The area was also known for a high proportion of breast cancer cases.


Women working in manufacturing car plastics, canning food or in bars, casinos and racetracks were found to face double the risk over the space of 10 years than those working in other occupations, researchers found.

The results also showed that women with jobs in agriculture were more at risk, with 34 per cent higher odds of developing the disease than those who didn't work in farming.

However, medical adviser to the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation, Dr Anna Bashford, says while the study highlights an interesting questions worthy of inquiry, it is "too early to tell".

"In breast cancer there are usually multiple risk factors for a patient so this is probably a small piece in a larger puzzle.

"It doesn't mean every woman working in agriculture is at an increased risk."

By the time the experiment group of 1000 women with the disease was broken down into various work groups, there would have been "very few women" representing the groups.

More research is still needed and there's no reason to change screening recommendations for mammograms, she said.

- www.nzherald.co.nz