The Cancer Society’s annual flagship event Daffodil Day – one of the most iconic fundraising and cancer awareness events in New Zealand – falls this year on Friday, 31 August. Daffodil Day symbolises hope for 1 in 3 New Zealanders affected by cancer.
Cancer is a disease of the body’s cells. Our bodies are made up of millions of cells which normally grow and are renewed in a controlled way, and we remain healthy. However, sometimes this control is lost. This may be due to an abnormality in the cells, such as a genetic mutation or exposure to a carcinogen (cancer causing agent) and the cells start to multiply unchecked instead of just renewing themselves. A solid group of these cells is called a tumour or growth.
Tumours can be either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Benign tumour cells stay in one place in the body and are not usually dangerous.
Malignant tumour cells may travel through the lymphatic system (the body’s drainage system) to lymph nodes or through blood to other parts of the body.
This spread of a cancer from one organ to another organ or part of the body not directly connected with it is called metastasis or metastatic cancer. Cancer actually refers to about 100 different diseases as cancerous cells can arise from almost any type of tissue cell.
Cancer is not contagious and cannot spread from person to person, however factors can lead to an increased risk of developing cancer such as smoking, sedentary lifestyle, obesity, alcohol consumption, some viruses and some environmental or genetic risk factors.
The risk of many cancers can be reduced by a healthy lifestyle and environment.
You can reduce your risk by:
- Being Smokefree
- Eating a diet high in fruit and vegetables and low in saturated fat and sugar
- Being a healthy weight
- Being regularly physically active
- Following lower risk guidelines if you drink alcohol
- Being SunSmart – avoiding over-exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) from the sun and sun beds
- Undertaking recommended screening for different cancers.
- Avoiding exposure to carcinogens in the workplace
Reducing the risk of cancer in the workplace
Managing workplace risks and exposure to those risks is a key responsibility for PCBU’s under the Health & Safety at Work Act 2015. There are a number of workplace risk factors that are associated with increased chances of developing cancer.
Asbestos is the largest workplace killer in New Zealand. One of the dangers of exposure to asbestos is an increased risk of lung cancer. If you’re building was constructed prior to 2000, you must have an asbestos management plan in place. You’ll either need to have an asbestos management survey conducted, or you must assume your building contains asbestos. Regardless, a management plan must be completed, regularly reviewed and updated, and available to anyone who requires it (like maintenance or building contractors). Talk to one of our Asbestos consultants about how we can help.
Workers exposed to UV radiation have an increased risk of developing skin cancer, particularly those working outdoors. The risk of sun exposure cannot be fully eliminated. Therefore, it must be minimised, so far as is reasonably practicable, by establishing effective control measures, providing share and sunscreen, and educating works to be SunSmart.
Under the Smoke-free Environments Act, all indoor workplaces must be smokefree. It’s your responsibility to ensure these rules are enforced. To protect your workers further, you can adopts a smokefree workplace policy, but banning smoking anywhere on work premises, reducing the risk of exposure to second smoke and encouraging smoker to consider quitting. For those who do want to quit, you should consider offering help, support and access to tools that may help them, like patches and lozenges. Our Occupational Health team can assist in this area.