Anti-cancer drugs at the origin of occupational cancers. TheNational health security agency (ANSES), seized by the Ministry of Labor, proposes to include 18 anticancer drugs in the list of carcinogenic processes.

These chemotherapy drugs, used in human and veterinary medicine, indeed contain so-called cytostatic substances, which expose people who handle them regularly to an increased risk of cancer.

Nurses, orderlies, cleaning staff …

And according to a survey by the Ministry of Labor dating from 2017, the number of people exposed is not negligible. 91,900 employees are in fact exposed to these substances, “from manufacturing to handling, including transport, waste management, cleaning, etc.. “, emphasizes ANSES.

This therefore concerns nurses, orderlies, doctors and veterinarians, but also other categories such as cleaning staff.

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Paradoxical anticancer drugs

But why are these drugs dangerous? The cytostatic substances they contain have the ability to block the multiplication of certain cells. This property is used in chemotherapy drugs to prevent or slow the growth of cancerous tumors.

But by virtue of their very mechanism of action, they “are likely to exhibit carcinogenic properties for healthy cells“, as well as “effects on reproduction and development“, explains ANSES.

Paradoxically, these drugs which treat cancer patients can therefore expose the caregivers who handle them to substances that are themselves carcinogenic.“, adds the agency.

Better train exposed professions

For ANSES, including these substances on the list of carcinogenic products would facilitate recognition of the nature of an occupational disease for those exposed. It would also help “better protection“of these professionals.

But that’s not all: ANSES also recommends raising awareness among employers and employees of the risks posed by these products, for example through “monitoring of the exposures of these professionals“or training in”techniques for removing potentially contaminated gloves “.

To date, nine types of work are listed in France as “carcinogens within the meaning of the labor code“. These include those exposing to formaldehyde, wood dust, respirable crystalline silica dust, engine lubricants and diesel engine exhaust gases.