Fri, Dec 22, 2006 - Page 4 News List

High breast cancer rate forces Aussie TV station to move


An Australian national broadcaster announced yesterday it will abandon its offices in Brisbane after an investigation revealed an extraordinarily high rate of breast cancer among staff.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) ordered the five-month investigation by an independent panel of experts after almost 100 staffers went on strike in July to demand a relocation.

The premises in Brisbane that house the ABC newsroom, studios and offices were widely blamed for 12 women staffers being diagnosed with breast cancer in the past 11 years.

Eight of the women worked in the newsroom, and most had been there for more than five years.

The study showed women among the staff of 250 who work in the Brisbane premises reported breast cancer at a rate up to 11 times higher than the general work force.

ABC managing director Mark Scott said this was an "unusually high incidence," but the panel was unable to explain any link to the work environment or technology in use at the site in Brisbane's inner west.

"The panel has been able to answer one of the two key questions we put to it -- namely, is this a significant atypical spike in the incidence of breast cancer?" Scott said in a statement released after briefing staff today.

"The answer to that question is yes, which is of great concern to the ABC," he added.

The panel, headed by Sydney University public health professor Bruce Armstrong, was unable to answer the second question regarding the cause.

Scott said the relocation would begin with the newsroom yesterday and was expected to be completed by the end of next month.

Staff would be offered free mammograms and counseling during the relocation process.

The ABC would also commission a study of the incidence of breast cancer among staff at other sites around Australia in an effort to find out the cause.

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