It is little comfort to the family and relatives who have already lost a loved one through occupational exposure to cancer-causing substances that levels of exposure to carcinogens have been reduced in recent decades.
It is estimated that about 4% of all cancer diagnosis in the U.S are related to exposure in the workplace to a range of carcinogens, which are the cancer-causing substances such as chemicals, radiation, and as a result of exposure to a number of industrial processes during the course of their work, such as underground mining and the dangers of uranium or radon, or the chemical compounds that occur as a result of the industrial processes being carried out.
There are a number of cancers that have been linked with chemical compounds and naturally occurring radiation in the workplace and as you would hope and expect, there are regulatory controls and many companies also try to pay constant attention to the need for adopting and maintaining safe occupational practices, if risk reduction is going to continue on a downward curve.
There are also additional factors that need to be taken into consideration, such as the fact that someone who smokes regularly and is exposed to occupational carcinogens such as asbestos, is many times more likely to develop cancer than someone who has the same level of exposure at work but does not smoke tobacco, so there is education and change needed to minimize the odds as much as possible for workers as well as employers.
Cancers associated with various occupations
You can get an extensive list of cancers that are associated with various occupations or occupational exposures from the American Cancer Society. Lung cancer can be caused by exposure to a number of substances such as coal products, diesel exhaust, radioactive ores such as uranium and also asbestos.
Some of the substances like arsenic are associated with a number of different cancers such as skin, liver and lung cancer and malignant mesothelioma is exclusively linked with exposure to asbestos.
The threat of exposure
It should be noted that the majority of occupations that people have in the U.S in order to earn their living, does not represent a risk of exposure and therefore their chances of developing a cancer as a result of workplace exposure is small.
There are naturally going to be industries and occupations where the threat of exposure is going to be considerably higher than others, and anyone working in chemical manufacturing, mining, coal production or at an iron or steel foundry is exposed to a higher risk, but it is to be hoped that a multi-level approach to reduce risks through strict regulations in the workplace, education about the risks and constant monitoring and surveillance, will help to keep the threat of exposure as low as possible.
Despite raised awareness regarding the risks of exposure to carcinogens in the workplace, there will still sadly be a number of people diagnosed with a cancer every day, and for these people, it becomes a challenge to beat the odds and survive the cancer.
There are some positive stories around that will help to provide inspiration to many who find themselves in a similar situation, but the type of cancer you have does unfortunately also have a bearing on the long-term survival rates.
A good example of this is when you look at the cancer known as mesothelioma, which is caused by exposure to asbestos. The survival rates for men and women with the mesothelioma in the United States have barely improved over the last 25 years with traditional therapies, but it is hard not to be inspired by the personal story of a Paul Kraus, who was diagnosed in 1997, but is still alive and well today and considered to be the longest survivor of this cancer in the world. His book gives a valuable insight to newly diagnosed sufferers and cancer patients in general.
There are cancer survivors who have decided to take an alternative angle to their diagnosis and have tried to adopt a chemo-free approach in their battle against the odds. There is a website that has been set up by Chris Wark, who was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2003 and had surgery but refused to have chemotherapy.
His story and the reasons why he decided against traditional methods are also inspirational and interesting to note. The key to all of the personal survival stories that you encounter is that people try and find a way to cope with the consequences of their cancer and look to find a way to extend their lives for as long as possible that works for them.
Survival rates for cancer are improving in general terms and with better understanding of the exposures that some workers face, hopefully less people in the future will have to find a way of beating the odds.
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