Building capacity: IDRC grant awarded for international partnership

16 Oct 2013

The Occupational Cancer Research Centre (OCRC) is a collaborator on a new project applying Canadian expertise in occupational exposure surveillance to research in Latin America and the Caribbean. Funded by the International Development Research Centre’s Canadian Partnerships Program, with additional contributions from project partners, the initiative will see OCRC join hands with CAREX Canada, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), and the National Cancer Institute of Colombia to support the development of national CAREX projects in Latin America and the Caribbean. The 28-month project, which is slated to begin in December 2013, will involve a knowledge exchange and capacity-building workshop with over twenty research, policy, advocacy, and private sector representatives from thirteen different countries, as well as ongoing technical assistance from CAREX Canada. The OCRC will coordinate the overall effort and share examples of how CAREX data can be used in surveillance studies and to estimate the burden of occupational cancer.

This new project allows the OCRC to help improve occupational carcinogen surveillance in Latin America and the Caribbean, a region where exposure – and rates of work-related cancer – is suspected to be high. “Cancer is one of the four leading causes of disease and death in the Americas. It is estimated that 8% of lung cancer cases alone are due to exposure to carcinogens in the workplace, such as asbestos, crystalline silica, and diesel engine exhaust,” explains Dr. Julietta Rodriguez Guzman, Regional Advisor on Workers’ Health at PAHO.

“Yet, there is limited data on the prevalence and levels of exposure to occupational carcinogens, particularly among informal workers which are more than half of the sub-region’s workforce. Addressing this data gap is very important for raising the profile of the workplace causes of cancer and preventing it in the workplace,” she says.

The OCRC will strengthen existing partnerships as well as build new working relationships between Canadian and Latin American and Caribbean organizations. “Our goal at the OCRC is to prevent occupational cancer through the identification and elimination of exposures to carcinogens in the workplace. At CAREX Canada, we strive to make information on exposures to carcinogens available and accessible to Canada’s cancer prevention and policy arena. We look forward to working with our partners in Latin America and the Caribbean to do the same,” says Paul Demers, Director of the OCRC and Scientific Director of CAREX Canada.