Occupation and Cancer

These day, occupational cancer is an important problem in the industries. The cause of this cancer is found to be the deposition and rubbing of soot, coal dust and coal tar on their skin.

Occupational radiation exposure has long been a well-known cause of cancer in humans. Early radiologists, unaware of the danger, often exposed their hands to test the effectiveness of their machines and thereby incurred skin cancers. They also suffered from a large excess of leukaemia as compared with other physicians. Approximately 20℅ of the watch dial painters, who pointed their fine brushes with their lips and thus absorbed a considerable amount of radium later developed bone cancer and antral carcinomas.

A major form of occupational radiation exposure is in the mining of ores containing radioactive elements. As high as ten-fold increased frequency of lung cancers has been observed among the miners working in such mines.

Etiology…………Sites of malignancy

1) Arsenic- Lung, skin, liver

2) Asbestos- Mesothelium, lung

3) Benzene- leukaemia

4) Benzidine- Bladder

5) Chromium compounds- Lung

6) Radiation( mining, dial painting) – Numerous locations

7) Mustard gas- Lung

8) Polycystic hydrocarbons( coal products) vinyl chloride – Skin, Lung, Angiosarcoma of liver

The sites of the body most commonly affected are skin, lungs, bladder and blood-forming organs.

These are: —

1) Skin cancer – statistics show that skin cancer forms a major percentage of occupational cancers. Skin cancers are an occupational hazard among gas workers, coke oven workers, tar distilleries , oil refineries, dyestuff makers, road makers etc.

2) Lung Cancer – Lung Cancer is a hazard in the gas industry, nickel and chromium workers, arsenic roasting plants and in the mining of radioactive substances. A combination of factors for example smoking and asbestos exposure greatly increase the risk of lung cancer.

3) Bladder cancer– Bladder cancer was first noted in men in the aniline dye industry in 1895. It is now known that bladder cancer is caused by aromatic amines, which are metabolized in the body and excreted in the urine. The industries associated with bladder cancer are dyestuff and the dyeing industry, the rubber industry etc.


4) Leukaemia – Exposure to benzol, X- rays, and radioactive substances gives rise to Leukaemia. Benzol is a dangerous chemical and is used as a solvent in many industries.

The characteristics of occupational cancer are

1) They appear after prolonged exposure

2) The period between exposure and development of cancer may be as long as 10-25 years.

3) The disease may develop even after cessation of exposure

4) The average age incidence is earlier than that for cancer in general

5) The localization of tumours is remarkably constant in any one occupation.

How to control occupational cancer?

1) personal hygiene is very important in prevention. Simple measures like bathing daily dramatically reduced the incidence of scrotal cancer in chimney sweeps.

2) Elimination and control of industrial carcinogens by finding a safer substitute.

3) Regular medical examination of workers and inspection of factories so that they maintain safety standards.

Check up

4) Health education of workers and management

5) Use of safety devices like gloves, masks etc must be made compulsory.

I hope, now all of you who are working in factories will take care of your health.

Dr S.k.jha


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