Risky Business: Cancer Hazards at Work By Vicky Martin
Cancer is caused by many lifestyle and environmental factors, but also by one’s line of work. Although it is sometimes difficult, we can make changes in our personal life to improve our health and risks. Quitting smoking, drinking less alcohol, and getting more rest are among the most obvious. If you’re stuck in a big polluted city and moving isn’t really an option, quality air filters may help. But what happens when your means of making a living is literally taking the life out of you?
In today’s economy, jobs are often hard to find in the first place, so it’s not always a viable option to be picky. In an ideal world, everyone could enjoy working in a safe, clean, healthy environment. At least knowing the riskiest jobs can help you either avoid them or take precautions. The following list showcases some of the most hazardous occupations related to cancer. Some might surprise you. Let it serve to help guide you toward safer career choices and practices.
Not often thought of as a risky profession, bartenders are particularly prone to lung cancer. Secondhand smoke exposes non-smokers to the same carcinogens as smokers. Bars and casinos tend to be a Mecca for smokers, and there is little a bartender can do to avoid it. In addition, night shift workers are more prone to certain malignancies because their sleep patterns are irregular. In many cases, they lose the benefit of healthy sun exposure that helps create the potent antioxidant, vitamin D. Vitamin D supplements may indeed help to some extent, but like any other vitamin, it is not a substitute for a good night’s rest.
- Pilots and Flight Attendants
The very nature of airline jobs puts workers at potentially higher risk of melanoma and breast cancer. Constantly at higher altitudes, workers are exposed to more cosmic radiation. Additionally, night flights, multiple time zones, and jet lag all lead to interrupted sleep patterns and reduced sunlight exposure. Recirculated air in the airplane cabin can also harbor toxic particulates that can evade the filtration system and create a persistent health risk.
- Hair Stylists
Hair-coloring agents include close to 5,000 chemicals, some of which can cause cancer. Hair-straightening products such as Brazilian Blowout contain formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. It is important that the area be well ventilated when using these products. A new trend is developing for salons featuring natural beauty products and methods.
The obvious danger of the flames is compounded by the toxic variety of materials that burn. Smoldering plastics, chemicals, asbestos, and other potentially carcinogenic materials expose firefighters to significant risk. Breathing apparatus should be used during both the firefight and the clean-up. Although the apparatus is helpful, special training is required to use it properly, and inadvertent mistakes in their use can still leave the firefighter at risk.
- Construction workers
Demolition or remodeling workers are often exposed to asbestos in old buildings. Plumbers have significant risk of exposure due to the tendency of certain types of pipe insulation to go airborne. When removing asbestos materials,precautions should always be taken, such as tenting, ventilation, and the use of respirators and protective clothing. Decontamination areas for worker cleanup are also essential to prevent carrying the particles out of the workspace. Asbestos exposure has been conclusively linked to mesothelioma, a virulent form of cancer.
It is ironic that those in the business of death may inadvertently be subjecting themselves to a more personal experience with it. Morticians use formaldehyde, a potent carcinogen, to embalm bodies. Even at nominal exposures, the risk of lymph and brain cancers can significantly increase.
- Office Workers
Although office workers are generally not exposed to carcinogenic materials (unless they are in very old buildings), the very sedentary nature of their work can predispose them to colon cancer. Make sure to take frequent breaks and move around. Progressive offices are now even incorporating standing or treadmill desks.
Common Risk Factors
There are common factors in all these professions that affect everyone. Some are easier to control than others, but the effort will significantly increase your health and decrease your cancer risks.
- Chemical Exposure
Avoid exposure to toxic agents and try to substitute natural, organic compounds whenever possible. If exposure is inevitable, make sure to wear proper protection and keep the area well-ventilated.
It can’t be stressed enough the importance of having enough good uninterrupted sleep to stay healthy. Avoid phones, computers, and excess lighting in your sleep area.
- Shift Work
If working a night shift, one must be particularly vigilant about getting enough sleep and find ways to help compensate for the lack of exposure to fresh air and sunlight. Taking vitamin D supplements may help, but a carefully crafted nutrition and exercise plan will prove invaluable for your health in the long term.
If Cancer Finds You
If, in spite of your best efforts, you find yourself battling cancer, there are alternative cancer treatment options to make the fight easier and more effective. Treatments such as IPT, local and whole body hyperthermia, artesunate, and other options increase the efficacy of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, often with less detrimental side effects. Of course, continuing healthy habits such as getting plenty of rest, healthy eating, and avoiding toxic chemicals is a must during treatment.
Sources and references:
10 Risky Jobs for Your Lungs<http://www.webmd.com/lung/features/risky-jobs-for-your-lungs>
Aerotoxic syndrome – Toxic airline cabin air could be making you sick. <http://www.naturalnews.com/029014_air_travel_aerotoxic_syndrome.html>
Occupation and cancer – follow-up of 15 million people in five Nordic countries<http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19925375>
Pilots, Cabin Crews Face Higher Risk of Skin Cancer, Study Says <http://consumer.healthday.com/cancer-information-5/mis-cancer-news-102/pilots-cabin-crews-face-higher-risk-of-skin-cancer-study-says-691358.html>
Vitamin D and Cancer Prevention <http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/vitamin-d-fact-sheet>