Occupational Exposure to Wood Dust and the Burden of Nasopharynx and Sinonasal Cancer in Canada

Mofidi A, Tompa E, Kalcevich C, McLeod C, Lebeau M, Song C, Kim J, Demers PA. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2022;19(3):1144.

Background: Millions of workers around the world are exposed to wood dust, as a by-product of woodworking. Nasopharynx cancers (NPCs) and sinonasal cancers (SNCs) are two cancers that can be caused by occupational exposure to wood dust, but there is little evidence regarding their burden in Canada.

Objective: The aim of this study was to estimate the incidence and economic burden of newly diagnosed cases of NPC and SNC in 2011 in Canada, attributable to occupational exposures to wood dust.

Methods: Calculating the incidence of cancer attributable to occupational exposure involved three steps of defining relative risk, assessing the prevalence of exposure and population modelling. We estimated the lifetime costs of newly diagnosed NPC and SNC from the societal perspective. The three major cost categories that we considered were direct costs (healthcare costs, out-of-pocket costs, and informal caregiving costs), indirect costs (labour productivity/output costs, employer adjustment costs, and home production losses), and intangible costs (health-related quality of life losses). To generate an estimate of economic burden, we used secondary data from multiple sources and applied them to our computational model developed from an extensive literature review.

Results: From approximately 1.3 million workers exposed to wood dust, we expected 28%, 43% and 29% were exposed to low, medium, and high levels, respectively. We estimated from 235 newly diagnosed cases of NPC and 245 newly diagnosed cases of SNC, 4.6% (11 cases) and 4.4% (11 cases) were attributed to occupational exposure to wood dust, respectively. Our estimates of the economic burden of occupational NPC and SNC were about CAD 5.4 million (CAD 496,311 per-case) and CAD 6.7 million (CAD 627,437 per-case), respectively. For NPC direct costs constituted approximately 20% of all costs, and indirect and intangible costs accounted for 55% and 25%, while for SNC the breakdown distribution were 16%, 42% and 42%, respectively.

Conclusions: Our estimates highlighted the importance of occupational NPC and SNC amongst other occupational cancers, especially in countries with large wood-related industries. This paper also serves the information needs of policymakers who are seeking to make evidence-based decisions about occupational cancer prevention efforts.