There is some evidence, though
currently inconclusive, to support the association of
prostate cancer incidence with certain occupations.
It appears that men who are exposed to higher levels
of the element cadmium may be at a high risk for developing
prostate cancer, as are men who are exposed to high
levels of pesticides through farming.
There are, however, many factors
that can occur concurrently with occupation that would
make occupation appear responsible for the increased
risk. For example, if men who worked in a coal mine
together over several decades all develop prostate cancer,
the mine therefore may be seen as the causation of the
disease. However, these men may all have similar high
levels of body fat as a result of similar regional diet,
or many of these men could be related to each other
and have a shared family history of prostate cancer.
Cadmium Exposure and Increased
Prostate Cancer Risk
Exposure to cadmium interferes with the body’s
ability to absorb zinc. Having adequate levels of zinc
in the body is believed to have a protective effect
against prostate cancer and other diseases. Men who
have prostate cancer tend also to have below average
levels of zinc within their bodies.
Occupations that may lead to exposure
to cadmium include power plant operator, mechanic, railroad
worker, machinery maintenance, welder, and more.
Pesticide Exposure and Increased
Risk of Prostate Cancer
Farmers who are exposed to pesticides may introduce
such a high level of “cellular insult” that
they increase their risk of developing prostate cancer.
Cellular insult is analogous to hitting a machine, the
machine being a cell and the insult being the act of
hitting. At first a machine works correctly. After being
hit a few times, it probably will continue to function
correctly. After being hit several times a day over
a period of years, the machine will begin to malfunction
as a result of the continual damage. Likewise, cells
of the prostate gland, after being exposed over a long
period to high levels of toxins may begin to reproduce
Both chlorinated pesticides and
the fumigant methyl bromide have been associated with
somewhat elevated levels of prostate cancer.
Occupational Hazard or Coincidence?
Your occupation is not a definite method of predicting
the development of prostate cancer. As with other preventable risks, such as diet or location, and other risks such as race, family history, and age, most researchers believe that prostate cancer is caused by multiple factors, many of which researchers and doctors do not yet understand. Prostate cancer is more likely caused by a combination
of these factors.
Aging, family history, and being
of African-American descent continue to be the most
reliable predictors of whether a man will soon develop
prostate cancer. If you, or someone you care about,
is exposed to cadmium or farm pesticides on a regular
basis, you may want to consider speaking with your doctor
about a possible elevated risk. Beginning PSA tests
as well as DRE exams will help you catch possible tumors
in their early stages when more treatment options are