By: Melanie Forti, Program Director
A recent study detected elevated risks of lung cancer associated with pesticide exposure. Farmworkers are daily exposed to pesticides at work. Another study found that lung cancer risk significantly increased with increasing levels of exposure to the banned organochlorine especially among pesticide applicators.
One in 15 Americans will be diagnosed with lung cancer. Lung cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in both men and women. An estimated 224,390 new cases of lung cancer are expected in 2016, accounting for about 14% of all cancer diagnoses.
LungCancer.org defines lung cancer as an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in one or both lungs. These abnormal cells do not carry out the functions of normal lung cells and do not develop into healthy lung tissue. As they grow, the abnormal cells can form tumors and interfere with the functioning of the lung, which provides oxygen to the body via the blood. There are three types of lung cancer. These include: Non-small cell lung, small cell lung cancer and lung carcinoid tumor.
Symptoms do not usually occur until the cancer is advanced, and may include persistent cough, sputum streaked with blood, chest pain, voice change, worsening shortness of breath, and recurrent pneumonia or bronchitis. Some of the common symptoms of lung cancer are:
- Coughing, especially if it persists or becomes intense
- Pain in the chest, shoulder, or back unrelated to pain from coughing
- A change in color or volume of sputum
- Shortness of breath
- Changes in the voice or being hoarse
- Harsh sounds with each breath (stridor)
- Recurrent lung problems, such as bronchitis or pneumonia
- Coughing up phlegm or mucus, especially if it is tinged with blood
- Coughing up blood
Many farmworkers also are smokers which increase the potential of suffering from lung cancer. Cigarettes are known to be carcinogens. Smoking is a main cause of small cell and non-small cell lung cancer, which contributes to a large percent of lung cancer deaths in women and men. Smoking among farmworkers is a common practice. Combining both, smoking and pesticide exposure is just a time bomb for agricultural workers to suffer from lung cancer. During this month we celebrate Lung Cancer Awareness Month. We encourage everyone to avoid pesticide exposure by wearing the proper protective gear and to quit the deadly habit of smoking.