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Professor David Coggon OBE, MA, PhD, DM, FRCP, FFOM, FFPH, FMedSci

Professor of Occupational and Environmental Medicine

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Professor David Coggon is Professor of Occupational and Environmental Medicine within Medicine at the University of Southampton.

David Coggon is Professor of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, University of Southampton. He graduated in mathematics and medicine from Cambridge and Oxford Universities, and after hospital jobs in internal medicine, he joined the MRC as an epidemiologist in 1980. His main research interests are the relation of work to musculo-skeletal disorders, the risks from chemical hazards in the workplace, and cultural and psychological determinants of illness attributed to occupational hazards.

He has also had a major role in the translation of research into policy. He currently chairs the Committee on Toxicity (FSA/HPA) and is a member of FSA’s General Advisory Committee on Science. In the past, he chaired the Advisory Committee on Pesticides (DEFRA), the Depleted Uranium Oversight Board (MOD) and the Mobile Telecommunications Health Research Programme Management Committee (DH), and was a member of the Advisory Group on Non-ionising Radiation (HPA), the Panel on Plant Protection Products and their Residues at the European Food Safety Authority, the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council (DSS), the Stewart Committee on mobile phones (DH), and the Expert Panel on Air Quality Standards (DoE). He was a founder Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 1998, and was awarded an OBE in 2002 for services to the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council.

He is an honorary Consultant Occupational Physician at Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust, and from 2008-11 was President of the UK Faculty of Occupational Medicine.


BA, Mathematics and Medical Sciences, University of Cambridge (1972)
MA, Mathematics and Medical Sciences, University of Cambridge (1976)
BM BCh, Medicine, University of Oxford (1976)
MRCP (UK), Royal Colleges of Physicians (1978)
PhD, Medicine, University of Southampton (1984)
AFOM, Faculty of Occupational Medicine (1985)
MFOM, Faculty of occupational Medicine (1987)
FRCP, Royal College of Physicians of London (1992)
DM, Medicine, University of Oxford (1993)
FFOM, Faculty of Occupational Medicine (1993)
FFPH, Faculty of Public health (2005)

Appointments held

House Physician, Professorial Medical Unit, Royal South Hants Hospital, Southampton, 1976

House Surgeon to Mr. L.J. Lawson, North Staffs Royal Infirmary,
Stoke-on-Trent, 1976-77

SHO in Medicine, City Hospital, Nottingham, 1977-78

Registrar in Medicine, City Hospital, Nottingham, 1978-80

Clinical Scientist, MRC Environmental Epidemiology Unit, University of Southampton, 1980-97

Professor of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit (previously known as MRC Environmental Epidemiology Unit and then MRC Epidemiology Resource Centre), University of Southampton, 1997–present

Honorary Consultant Occupational Physician, Southampton University Hospitals Trust (previously Southampton Health Authority), 1987–present






Research interests

Professor Coggon leads a programme of epidemiological research on the inter-relation of work and health, aimed at informing policy and clinical practice.

This currently includes studies on:

  • Musculoskeletal disorders of the back, neck, upper limb and knee, and associated disability, including the impact of occupational physical activities and of psychological influences
  • Clinical management of distal arm pain
  • Infectious pneumonia and occupational exposure to metal fume
  • Cancer risk from various industrial chemicals
  • Risk factors for occupational injuries
  • Patterns of occupational mortality nationally
  • Skin disease in sheep farmers
  • Endotoxins and risk of lung cancer

The four most important achievements of his research have been:

1. Demonstration of a major hazard of hip osteoarthritis in farmers, which appears to result from frequent heavy lifting. This has contributed to the classification of hip osteoarthritis as an occupational disease in farmers for the purposes of social security compensation.

2. Demonstration of a hazard of knee osteoarthritis in occupations that involve prolonged kneeling or squatting. This has contributed to the recognition of knee osteoarthritis as a compensable occupational disease in coal miners, both in the UK and in Germany.

3. Demonstration of an occupational hazard of infectious lobar pneumonia in welders and other occupations involving exposure to metal fume. This has led to a proposal that immunisation against pneumococcal infection should be recommended for welders.

4. Demonstration of major differences between countries in the prevalence of common musculoskeletal complaints and associated disability among workers carrying out similar physical activities.

Other significant achievements include:

5. Contributions to the development of job-exposure matrices as a research tool in occupational epidemiology and to the understanding of their strengths and limitations.

6. Demonstration of a link between stomach cancer and domestic crowding in early life. Subsequent research by other investigators showed that infection by H. Pylori is an important cause of stomach cancer and that domestic crowding promotes infection by the bacterium.

7. Establishing the descriptive epidemiology of low back pain in Britain, including an increase in its prevalence between the 1980s and 1990s.

8. Demonstration that reading in childhood is a risk factor for myopia.

9. Demonstration that a hazard of cutaneous warts in butchers is due largely if not completely to infection by HPV7, and that this appears to result from an effect on the pathogenicity of the virus rather than an increased rate of its transmission from person to person.

10. Generation of data on the risk of cancer from phenoxy herbicides, mineral acid mists, ethylene oxide, styrene, formaldehyde and other known or suspected occupational carcinogens. This research has contributed to risk assessment and policy internationally.

11. Demonstration that the excess mortality from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in coal miners has a markedly different geographical distribution from that of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis. This led to a change in the rules governing social security compensation for COPD in miners.

12. Demonstration that the ranking of occupations by mortality from pleural mesothelioma is substantially different from that for peritoneal mesothelioma and asbestosis. This implies important differences in the exposure-response relationships for diseases caused by asbestos.

13. Demonstration that the descriptive epidemiology of aortic aneurysm differs importantly from that of coronary heart disease and peripheral vascular disease. This implies the existence of as yet unrecognised, distinctive causes.

14. Demonstration that the effects of occupational kneeling and squatting on risk of knee osteoarthritis are greatest in people who are obese. This suggests that avoidance of obesity would be particularly beneficial in people exposed to these occupational activities.

15. Demonstration that occupational kneeling and squatting are risk factors for degenerative knee cartilage injuries.

16. Demonstration in a case-control study that, after allowance for other risk factors, risk of hip fracture was not associated with exposure to fluoride in drinking water. This finding has contributed to the formulation of government policy on water fluoridation.

17. Validation of a method for retrospective measurement of exposure to depleted uranium, which was subsequently used successfully in a testing programme for Gulf War veterans.

18. Demonstration of the important contribution of somatising tendency to the incidence and prevalence of common musculoskeletal complaints.

Academic unit(s)

Human Development and Health Academic Units

Affiliate academic unit(s)

Human development and physiology Research group

Postgraduate student supervision

1992 Kevin Walsh DM
1993 Louisa Wong PhD
1994 Martin Keefe DM
1998 Cathy Linaker PhD
1998 Sharon Hillier PhD
1999 Julia Smedley DM
2000 Keith Palmer DM
2002 Paul Baker DM
2003 Karen Walker-Bone PhD
2005 Claire Ryall PhD
2006 Christine Solomon PhD
2010 Ira Madan DM

Faculty of Medicine

Chair of Health and safety Committee

National and international responsibilities

Chairman, Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Environment and Consumer Products (FSA/DH)
Member, General Advisory Committee on Science (FSA)
Trustee of Colt Foundation



Book Section(s)


Personal tutor

BM5: Lectures and seminars on occupational medicine in SBOM course, occasional supervision of fourth year projects
Teaches at workshops on environmental epidemiology in South Asia

Professor David Coggon
Phone: (023) 8077 7624 Fax: (023) 8070 4021 Email:

Room Number: SGH/MRC LEU/MP95

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