TWO thousand hospital patients are to be studied for possible links between cancer-causing chemicals and South Yorkshire’s steel industry.
The study at The University of Sheffield will focus on bladder cancer, a disease caused primarily by smoking and also exposure to workplace chemicals.
More people than average have been found to die from the condition in Rotherham, Doncaster and particularly Barnsley - where between 2007 and 2009 the death rate from the disease was 50 per cent higher than the national average.
Experts believe cases could be linked to the metal industry, which employed four in 10 men in South Yorkshire as recently as 40 years ago.
The findings could lead to compensation payouts for victims, and new laws to protect workers.
James Catto, who will head the investigation, said: “The trend for smoking is the same in most parts of the country so we believe there is an occupational factor.”
The study was welcomed by South Yorkshire coroner Chris Dorries. He said: “Anything that raises the profile and assists pathologists to determine whether a bladder cancer arises from an industrial cause or not has to be welcomed.”
Links between industry and bladder cancer were established in Victorian times.
Scientists hope to improve the way chemicals are used in the metal industry and identify people at high risk of developing cancer so it can be caught early or prevented and develop treatments to minimise the toxicity of chemicals. Latest figures for 2006-8 show there were 250 deaths in men from the illness in South Yorkshire.