A new study has found a significantly increased risk of pancreatic cancer mortality among men who were managers and craft and related trade workers.
The study published in the SA Medical Journal (SAMJ) also found elevated risks among women who were managers, professionals, clerical support workers and elementary occupation workers.
The study – titled “Pancreatic cancer mortality in South Africa: A case-control study” from researchers at the University of the Witwatersrand – aimed to identify factors associated with an increased risk of pancreatic cancer mortality in South Africa.
The method included a matched case-control study using data collected by Statistics SA from 1997 to 2016. The selection of cases was restricted to individuals who died from pancreatic cancer in South Africa, while non-cancer-related deaths were selected as controls.
According to the study, in 2020 pancreatic cancer was ranked seventh in cancer-related fatalities in both genders in South Africa.
Among men, it was also the seventh leading cause of cancer death, while among woman it ranked sixth. The estimated total of pancreatic cancer-related deaths in SA for 2020 was 1 982, with 1006 men and 976 women.
From 1997 to 2016, cases saw a significant increase, totalling 23 581.
“Our findings further suggest that race, education, smoking and occupation were significant predictors of pancreatic cancer mortality.
“While males employed in managerial and craft and related trade occupations had a higher risk of death from cancer of the pancreas than other males, females who were managers, professionals, clerical support workers and elementary occupation workers were more likely than females in other occupations to die from this malignancy,” the authors said.
They also found that the increased risks of pancreatic cancer mortality among workers employed in various occupations may be due to exposure to solvents in the workplace.
“As solvents are common in different occupations, there is also the possibility of interactive effects of these solvents, which may increase the risk of death from pancreatic cancer.
“These solvents are used for different purposes in industries. Workers employed in hospital-related occupations and industries and chemical petroleum processing are exposed to formaldehyde. This occupational exposure is associated with pancreas cancer.”
Many of the study participants employed in various industries among cases were smokers.
“The combination of smoking with hazardous operations may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer mortality.
“In reality, workers are also exposed to other extrinsic and intrinsic factors contributing to pancreatic cancer mortality.
“Besides clinical, sociodemographic and environmental risk factors, it is possible that these workers were also alcohol drinkers, and there is an interactive effect of smoking and alcohol consumption.”
The authors said avoidance of smoking, early diagnosis and treatment of pancreatic cancer, arrangement of working time and proper use of protective equipment at workplaces may reduce pancreatic cancer mortality.