February 11, 2018 | Stephen Fine, Founder and President
Occupational Risk of Melanoma
It’s likely that you have heard about some of the more highlighted workplace-related cancers. For example, the famously reported connection between asbestos, (a material at one time used in buildings and warehouses as a fire retardant) and lung cancer. But we rarely hear of any connections between specific vocations and melanoma. Such relationships do exist, and within this post we’ll address some of them.
Members of “The Bravest” profession are unsung heroes. They routinely put their lives at stake to save the lives of others. Unfortunately, the dangers they face don’t come exclusively from smoke and the flames they work so hard to extinguish.
The amount of heat that some fires are capable of generating is massive. When that heat consumes wood, plastics, polymers and oil-based products they release dangerous carcinogens. These include, (though are not limited to) soot, benzene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and dioxins. Exposure to these chemicals increase the risk of melanoma in firefighters by 30-45%.
Flying the Unfriendly Skies: Airline Pilots and Flight Crews
Many of the millions of automobile drivers within the U.S. don’t think about how much we’re affected by the sun’s harmful UV (ultraviolet) rays while driving the nation’s roadways. (Auto glass is easily breached by UVA rays, which is why sunscreen should always be applied prior to lengthy drives).
It’s not much different for airline pilots and flight crews. Research studies reveal that while aircraft windows block over 99% of UVB rays, they can allow 50% of UVA rays to penetrate. As a result, flight crews have around twice the risk of non-flight-based individuals. In fact, “Pilots flying for 56.6 minutes at 30 000 feet receive the same amount of UV-A carcinogenic effective radiation as that from a 20-minute tanning bed session.” *
For those who may be unaware, “zero” is always the correct answer to the question of how many minutes anyone should ever spend in a tanning bed.
If you’re a passenger who has booked a coveted window seat, it’s advisable to apply broad-spectrum sunscreen prior to departure and bring extra with you. Many “dollar” stores sell miniature tubes, which are perfect for air travel.
Welders, Cooks and Ocular Melanoma
While nothing has yet been definitively proven, studies have shown that there may be a link between occupational cooking, welding and ocular melanoma. The relevant source article cited below provides these specific causes regarding the former:
“During the cooking, workers may expose to many cooking fumes, high radiation from microwaves, strong light from incandescent ovens, and infrared radiation…”
About the latter, the flame of a welder’s torch emits its’ own UV rays. Welders also endure a higher risk for traditional melanoma, other skin cancers and skin damage in general. Particularly when the trade’s protective suit, or parts of it such as gloves, are not worn while welding.
The Leather, Brewing and Printing Industries
Leather workers, such as those who produce shoes, are exposed to the dangerous chemicals required to complete the tanning process. (Leather tanning, not sun tanning). Workers in the printing and brewing (and malt-processing) industries are likewise exposed to carcinogens specific to their trades.
It is of significant importance for employees working in these vocations to follow the safety regulations of their companies to the letter, along with the laws of common sense.
* Additional information source articles: Firefighter Cancer, Firefighters, Airplane Pilots and Crew (A), Airplane Pilots and Crew (B), Airplane Pilots and Crew (C), Welders, Cooks and Ocular Melanoma, Swedish Study on Shoes, Breweries and Printing, SkinCancerOnly.com