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OBJECTIVES—Veterinarians come into contact with several potentially carcinogenic exposures in the course of their occupation. These exposures include radiation, anaesthetic gases, pesticides (particularly insecticides), and zoonotic organisms. This review aims to summarise what is known about the carcinogenic risks in this profession.
METHODS—The levels of exposure to potential carcinogens in the veterinary profession are examined and evidence is reviewed for carcinogenesis of these substances in humans at doses similar to those experienced by veterinarians. The few published studies of cancer in veterinarians are also summarised.
RESULTS—Veterinarians have considerable potential for exposure to several known and potential carcinogens. Risks may be posed by work in clinics with poorly maintained x ray equipment, by use of insecticides, and from contact with carcinogenic zoonotic organisms. The few studies available suggest that veterinarians have increased mortality from lymphohaematopoietic cancers, melanoma, and possibly colon cancer.
CONCLUSIONS—The exposures examined in this review are not unique to the veterinary profession, and, as a consequence, information gathered on the carcinogenic risks of these exposures has implications for many other occupations such as veterinary nurses, animal handlers, and some farmers, as well as dentists, radiographers, and anaesthetists.
Keywords: cancer; veterinarians; occupation