What You Should Know About Occupational Cancer

What You Should Know About Occupational Cancer
When certain abnormal or infected cells in your body suddenly begin reproducing or multiplying in an uncontrolled fashion, it indicates cancer. Cancer may be of many types, depending on the causal factors and the location of the cancer in a person’s body. Some of the factors which may cause cancer are:

  • Heredity
  • Diet and lifestyle
  • Age, sex and ethnicity
  • Other medical conditions
  • Exposure to agents which cause cancer at workplace or in the environment

A single factor or a combination of more than one factor can lead to cancer.

Occupational Hazards That Lead To Cancer

When a person is exposed to cancer causing agents at workplace, long-term exposure to such agents can lead to cancer, which is also understood as occupational cancer. There are many substances which have been found to be carcinogenic in animal studies and these substances are widely used in many manufacturing and chemical industries, exposing millions of people working there to these substances.
According to well researched data, 4% to 10% of total cancer cases in the US alone are because of occupational exposure to carcinogenic substances. A carcinogenic substance is an agent which either causes cancer or increases a person’s risk of getting affected by cancer. Some well-known occupational carcinogens are chemicals like benzene, naturally found minerals like asbestos and solar radiation.
Common occupational cancers are those of the lungs, bladder, skin, larynx, kidney, liver or cancers like mesothelioma and leukemia. Moreover, in most cases, specific carcinogens can be linked to certain types of cancers.
At a workplace, exposure to carcinogens may be by inhalation (fumes), contact with the skin or ingestion. Inhaling contaminated air at the workplace is the most common passage for chemicals to enter a person’s body. Some carcinogens cause cancer only if they are inhaled while some can cause cancer only if ingested. Ingestion can happen when workers eat, drink, or smoke in areas where they work with toxic chemicals. Skin contact can also let some chemicals pass to the bloodstream. Extremely small quantities of carcinogens can also enter through the eyes.
The risk also varies with the degree of exposure. Moreover, some individuals may be more susceptible to cancer than others because of other factors like heredity or their lifestyle like smoking or excessive alcohol consumption. Another important factor is the duration of exposure. Some carcinogens may cause cancer after years of exposure while some may do the damage within a short time.
Whatever be the route of entry, once the carcinogens enter the body, they enter a person’s bloodstream and get carried to various parts of the body and can damage any organ in the body, no matter how far it is from the point of entry.

Working Safely With A Carcinogen

There are some measures which can be adopted so that the hazards of any substance can be controlled. Though it is difficult to determine the appropriate control method, still there are some regulations in place which, when implemented, can bring down the exposure to carcinogens to safe limit.
Understandthe possible hazards of a certain substance – the material might be inflammable or may react with some other substances. People who deal with such materials must know how to use them safely. Materials which give off fumes, vapor or gas must be handled with care. The quantity of these materials should also be monitored when they are used.
There is also some protective equipment which needs to be installed at workplaces where carcinogenic materials are used for various processes. Workers handling such materials may also need to wear some protective gear like gloves or aprons or respiratory protection. It is important that employers should make sure they provide a safe environment to their workers and it is the workers’ duty to report any lapses to their employers without delay.
A good way to learn more and be involved is to attend awareness events in Newnan and other surrounding areas. The Black Tie Gala event organized by Vision Community Foundation is worth attending. The eventnot only spreads awareness about cancer and other diseases, but also helps raise funds for further research.