Sales jobs linked to bladder cancer risk

New research adds to evidence that people who work in sales, particularly women, may have a higher risk of bladder cancer.

Studies have found higher bladder cancer rates among people in various occupations, including hairdressers, textile workers, truck drivers and workers in the rubber, leather and chemical industries. In most cases it is thought that long-term chemical exposures are to blame.

Several studies over the past 20 years have also found sales workers to be at higher-than-average risk of bladder cancer.

For their study, Dr Andrea Mannetje and Dr Neil Pearce of Massey University's Centre for Public Health Research analysed 18 studies on occupation and bladder cancer risk.

They found that when other factors were considered including smoking, a major risk for bladder cancer women in sales occupations had an 18 per cent higher risk of developing the disease than those in other jobs.

For men, there was no clear overall association between sales jobs and bladder cancer. There was, however, some suggestion that men in car sales had an elevated risk, the researchers report in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.

It is not yet clear that there is a cause-and-effect relationship between sales jobs and bladder cancer, says Dr Mannetje.

"This review of the literature only shows that there is a small increase in bladder cancer risk for female sales workers," she says. The reason, she adds, is unknown, and it is possible that these are chance findings.

One hypothesis, Dr Mannetje says, is that sales workers have less time for bathroom breaks and take in less fluid throughout the day, which might affect their cancer risk because the bladder has a longer contact with potentially cancer-promoting substances in the urine.

However this is speculation, says Dr Mannetje. Neither bathroom habits nor fluid intake have been shown to affect bladder cancer risk, though some animal research suggests they may. Also unclear is whether sales workers visit the bathroom infrequently or limit their fluid intake compared with people in other jobs.

Regardless of whether there is a cause-and-effect relationship, Dr Mannetje says, the best way for people to reduce their risk of bladder cancer is to avoid smoking.

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