18 Mar 2009

Hard to prove link between cancer and shift work - expert

3:40 pm on 18 March 2009

A legal expert on accident compensation says an official link between cancer and shift work is unlikely to be made in New Zealand.

The government in Denmark has made payments of varying amounts to women who developed breast cancer after working night shifts in state sector jobs.

The cancer research arm of the World Health Organisation has been warning for nearly two years that shift work is a cause of cancer.

It cites one study which revealed a rise of 36% in breast cancer for woman who worked nightshift for more than 30 years.

The agency has added night shift work to a probable list of carcinogens, helping to convince the National Board of Industrial Injuries in Denmark to make payments to 37 women with breast cancer.

Denmark is considering classifying breast cancer as an occupational illness, according to the director of the National Board of Industrial Injuries.

In New Zealand, accident compensation lawyer John Miller says an ACC claim could be made if a link could be proven here. But he says establishing proof is the hard part.

He says the ideal solution would be for night shift related cancer to be included on an ACC schedule of occupational diseases.

Mr Miller says it is difficult for ACC to widen its scope of cover given the current economic climate.