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Representing Injured Workers Since 1955

Occupational risks and cancer

While California state and federal regulations regarding workplace safety and illness prevention have gone a long way to protect workers against many kinds of injuries and diseases, some occupational conditions and hazards continue to be linked to serious illness. Some forms of cancer, for instance, are known to be caused by long-term exposure to carcinogens in the workplace. Recognizing that job-related conditions can and do contribute to the development of cancers in workers is the first step to implementing effective illness prevention techniques in the workplace.

According to the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, many workplace injuries and illnesses are linked to unhealthy contact with carcinogens. In fact, approximately 48,000 new cases of cancer are caused by preventable exposure to occupational carcinogens every year. Unfortunately, however, it’s also estimated that the U. S. only tests a considerably small percentage of its chemicals for carcinogenic qualities. And given that a person’s genetics, lifestyle and environment can contribute to his or her development of cancer, it can be increasingly difficult to accurately identify the exact cause of the disease in a patient.

The American Cancer Society explains that while there is still more to be learned about the link between environmental factors and cancer, numerous types of carcinogens and processes have been identified as cancer-causing. They include but are not limited to:

  • Asbestos
  • Chemical compounds
  • Natural and industrial radiation

Beyond that, specific carcinogens and occupational processes are linked to particular forms of cancer. For example, diesel exhaust can cause lung cancer, while formaldehyde is linked to cancer of the sinuses and nasal cavities. In discussing occupational risks associated with the development of cancers and other diseases, the CDC and the American Cancer Society both emphasize the fact that such work-related diseases are almost entirely preventable with proper regulations and precautions.

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