Occupational and environmental factors

Does my occupation or environment affect my risk of cancer?

Contact with certain harmful substances in the natural environment or workplace can cause cancer. Substances that are known to cause cancer are called carcinogens.


Asbestos is a natural mineral that can cause damage to the lungs. Nine out of ten people who develop mesothelioma (a rare type of cancer affecting the linings of the lung and abdomen) have had contact with asbestos. People who have worked in industries such as ship-building and construction may have come into contact with asbestos. Its use is now banned in the UK.

Other occupational causes of cancer

Certain chemicals used in dye factories, rubber production, gas works and other chemical industries have all been linked to bladder cancer. Fortunately these chemicals have now been banned.

Environmental causes of cancer

One of the main environmental causes of cancer is natural radiation, for example from the sun. We know that most skin cancers are caused because of prolonged exposure to the sun.

Another example is radon, a naturally occurring gas that’s found in the rock of certain parts of the UK. Radon has been linked to the development of lung cancer.

Back to Potential causes of cancer