Women and minorities in occupational cancer research


To determine whether there has been an improvement in the number of studies in occupational cancer research that include and analyze women and minorities over the past two decades.


Although women comprise nearly half of the working population, they have not been included in epidemiologic research assessing exposure to potential occupational carcinogens to the same extent as men, and when included, analyses are often not as comprehensive. The same can be said for minority workers. Zahm and colleagues (1994) reviewed the occupational cancer literature from 1971 to 1990 to quantify the inclusion of women and minorities in occupational cancer studies. They found few studies included women and those that did seldom provided as full of an evaluation as seen in studies of men. They pointed out that potential differences in exposure risk and metabolization, along with obvious differences in cancers of interest (e.g. ovarian and breast cancer in women), warrant a more thorough research effort in these groups.


This study updated the analysis conducted by Zahm et al. to include studies published between 1991 to 2009. A manual search of all issues and supplements of the eight journals assessed by Zahm et al. was conducted along with six additional journals that routinely publish papers on occupational cancer research. All studies that included women and minorities were retrieved and entered into a database. Specific information collected from each article included study design, analysis type, gender, race/ethnicity, cancer sites, exposures, occupations, and number of risk factors analyzed.


This project provided information on the number of occupational cancer studies that have included women and minorities in the last two decades, as well as other trends in occupational cancer research. Results may be used to mark changes since the previous results were released in 1994, and to determine persistent research needs in these areas.

Scientific articles
  • Recent trends in published occupational cancer epidemiology research: results from a comprehensive review of the literature

  • The inclusion of women in studies of occupational cancer: a review of the epidemiologic literature from 1991-2009

Research Team
Aaron Blair (PI)
Paul Demers
Priyanka Raj
Karin Hohenadel
Public Health Ontario
Shelia Zahm
National Cancer Institute