In fight against workplace cancer, Ontario commits $6 million for ‘public health’

The Ontario government will invest $6 million to help keep workplace cancers from becoming a risk in the province.

The announcement, made Thursday by Ontario cabinet minister Michael Coteau, is part of the government’s plan to improve workplace safety in the province. Coteau said his team worked with researchers in a federally funded project to develop health workers’ guidelines for identifying non-cancer workplace cancers, as well as prevent them in the future.

“This funding will help to support the health-care system to continue working with health-care providers to reduce the amount of time that they are spending on cancer diagnoses,” Coteau said in a statement.

Employers were not required to comply with the guidelines, but the government plans to encourage them to educate and educate their workers.

“These guidelines are the first step toward ensuring our workers are offered a wider range of preventative services,” Coteau said.

An estimated 1,200 workers are diagnosed with cancer each year in Ontario. About two-thirds of them develop non-cancer cancers that may be linked to their work, according to the government.

Employers and workers involved in the project say that cancer can be difficult to detect in the early stages. Health workers have different views on the effectiveness of workplace cancer screening programs. One, a radiation oncologist with more than 20 years of experience, said the guidelines are a small step toward spreading the message of cancer prevention.

“I think it’s good to have this information,” Ira Cohen, who practices at The Imaging Center in Toronto, said in a statement. “I’m not a fan of going to the doctor for screening, it’s a waste of time for me. But this is a strategy to catch some cancers before they become really major cancers, when the treatment possibilities are much less.”

Some cancer experts believe cancer screening programs won’t succeed in saving lives. “In my view, a screening program is a waste of time in a high risk, low screening population,” Dr. Joanne Rodriguez, an ophthalmologist with the University of Toronto, wrote in an email. “In a high risk population screening is beneficial, even when it fails to improve cancer control.”

But the guidelines would allow workers with concerns about cancer to take more proactive measures, such as monitoring their diet, exercising and having a regular check-up.

In Canada, workplace cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosis, after skin cancer and lung cancer. About 1,600 workers die each year of non-cancer work related cancers in Canada, according to government statistics.

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