The prevalence of cancer among laboratory workers is slightly higher than it is for people who don't work in labs, according to the results of a Health Ministry study released Thursday. More than 9,000 hospital, health fund and university lab workers with 20 years or more tenure - most of them women - were questioned. The study was conducted by Prof. Gad Rennart, head of Clalit Health Services' Cancer Registry, and colleagues. Instead of one cancer patient per 1,000 (in the control group), there were 1.2 cancer patients per 1,000 in the lab worker group. Breast cancer was significantly more common among lab workers, as were melanoma (skin cancer), lip cancer and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Lab workers were less likely to have lung cancer than the control group. As a result of the study, the Health Ministry set up a steering committee to organize work safety programs for lab workers around the country who are exposed to chemicals, radiation and other potentially harmful substances. So far, 500 lab workers have completed courses. Workers in research labs were not at higher risk to get cancer. Workers in infectious-disease detection labs were not more likely to have breast cancer or non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, but they were at higher risk for melanoma and a bit higher risk for ovarian cancer. The study reflected work conditions during the 1980s and 1990s. Since then, work conditions and safety have been significantly improved, thus it is likely that any higher risk of cancer faced by lab workers today is reduced, the researchers wrote.