Making the link between exposure to asbestos and respiratory cancer in the clinical setting: What are the steps?

Status: in progress


The goal of this project is to make the link between workers’ exposure to asbestos and their respiratory cancer. It is asking questions about work and potential asbestos exposure of patients in the regional lung cancer clinics. These patients have lung cancer or mesothelioma. The project will raise the awareness of physicians, and assist sick workers in reporting to the workers’ compensation boards. This feasibility study will be based at the regional lung cancer clinics. It will help identify effective ways to raise awareness; approach ill workers; help them self-identify if they have had exposure to asbestos; help them record their occupational histories; and facilitate their filing of claims.


Occupational diseases, especially those with long latency periods such as lung cancer and mesothelioma, are under-recognized and under-reported to workers’ compensation boards. Physicians often do not take patients’ occupational history because they do not have enough time or lack knowledge of the advantages of helping workers file for compensation. Workers have often forgotten about their exposure to asbestos that may have occurred more than 20 to 30 years ago.


Participating patients with mesothelioma and lung cancer will be identified at the regional lung cancer clinics. They will be asked about their occupational and job, and whether they think they were exposed to asbestos. If they give permission, the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) will contact them and help them reproduce their work histories, and will help them file for compensation. Study staff are working with the clinics to determine the best way to integrate the study into the clinical process.  Patients receive educational materials about the link between asbestos exposure and mesothelioma, and potential compensation.


The results of this feasibility study will inform a future roll out to all lung cancer clinics in Ontario to improve the recognition and reporting of asbestos-related lung cancer and mesothelioma.


Pilot studies will be initiated with the help of Cancer Care Ontario into the regional lung cancer clinics.



Linn Holness (Centre for Research Expertise in Occupational Disease and St. Michael’s Hospital) (Co-PI)
Desre Kramer (Occupational Cancer Research Centre) (Co-PI)
Rivka Kushner (Occupational Cancer Research Centre)
Irena Kudla (St. Michael’s Hospital)
Mark Parent (Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers)