Cancer Causes & Control

, Volume 25, Issue 7, pp 829–841 | Cite as

Occupational exposure and ovarian cancer risk

  • Nhu D. Le
  • Andy Leung
  • Angela Brooks-Wilson
  • Richard P. Gallagher
  • Kenneth D. Swenerton
  • Paul A. Demers
  • Linda S. Cook
Original paper



Relatively little work has been done concerning occupational risk factors in ovarian cancer. Although studies conducted in occupational settings have reported positive associations, their usefulness is generally limited by the lack of information on important confounders. In a population-based case–control study, we assessed risk for developing epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC) associated with occupational exposure while accounting for important confounders.


Participants were identified through provincial population-based registries. Lifetime occupational history and information on potential confounding factors were obtained through a self-administered questionnaire. Unconditional logistic regression and the likelihood ratio test were used to assess EOC risk with each occupation (or industry), relative to all other occupations (or industries), adjusting for potential confounders including body mass index, oral contraceptive use, menopausal hormone therapy, parity, age at first childbirth, age at menarche, age at menopause, family history of breast and ovarian cancer in mother and sister(s), tubal ligation, partial oophorectomy, and hysterectomy. Occupations and industries were coded according to the Canadian Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) and Standard Industrial Classification (SIC).


Significant excess risk was observed for several groups of teaching occupations, including SOC 27, teaching and related (adjusted OR 1.77, 95 % CI 1.15–2.81) and SOC 279, other teaching and related (adjusted OR 3.11, 95 % CI 1.35–8.49). Significant excess was also seen for a four-digit occupational group SOC 4131, bookkeepers and accounting clerks (adjusted OR 2.80, 95 % CI 1.30–6.80). Industrial sub-groups showing significant excess risk included SIC 65, other retail stores (adjusted OR 2.19, 95 % CI 1.16–4.38); SIC 85, educational service (adjusted OR 1.45, 95 % CI 1.00–2.13); and SIC 863, non-institutional health services (adjusted OR 2.54, 95 % CI 1.13–6.52).


Our study found an elevated EOC risk for teaching occupations and is the first study to observe such an increased risk after adjustment for potential confounders. Further studies with more detailed assessment of the work environment and unique lifestyle characteristics may be fruitful in elucidating this etiology.


Epithelial ovarian cancer Occupational risk Job history Case–control study 



The authors thank two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments and suggestions which led to an improved presentation of the paper. This research was partially supported by grants from WorkSafe BC (formerly the Workers’ Compensation Board of British Columbia). We gratefully acknowledge the invaluable contribution of the research coordinators and assistants: Barbara Jamieson, Donna Kan, Zenaida Abanto, and Lynn Vo.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nhu D. Le
    • 1
  • Andy Leung
    • 1
  • Angela Brooks-Wilson
    • 1
    • 2
  • Richard P. Gallagher
    • 1
  • Kenneth D. Swenerton
    • 3
  • Paul A. Demers
    • 4
  • Linda S. Cook
    • 5
  1. 1.Cancer Control ResearchBC Cancer Research CentreVancouverCanada
  2. 2.Canada’s Michael Smith Genome Sciences CentreBC Cancer AgencyVancouverCanada
  3. 3.Medical OncologyBC Cancer AgencyVancouverCanada
  4. 4.Occupational Cancer Research CentreCancer Care OntarioTorontoCanada
  5. 5.Department of Internal MedicineUniversity of New MexicoAlbuquerqueUSA

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