Women who have developed breast cancer after working night shifts have been paid compensation by the Danish government.
The move follows a ruling by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an arm of the UN’s World Health Organisation, that night working is a probable cause of cancer – the next most serious risk factor after known carcinogens such as asbestos.
Pressure is now on UK health authorities to do more to tackle the dangers of working nights.
The Health and Safety Executive’s chief medical officer, John Osmond, told the BBC the HSE was aware of the debate and had commissioned its own research.
“The HSE has been on the ball in this area and has commissioned a very eminent epidemiologist to examine the risk of working at night and whether there is any link to breast cancer. This report will be completed in 2011.”
About 20% of the UK workforce work night shifts.
The Danish government has paid compensation to 40 women, but those who had a family history of breast cancer had their claims rejected.