Oct. 29--Warning: Driving a truck for a living can be hazardous to your health
-- if you are diagnosed with prostate cancer, researchers said Tuesday.
Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer diagnosed in men, and in most
cases it's basically harmless. As the National Cancer Institute says, even
patients who never get their tumors treated are likely to die of something other
than prostate cancer. So, instead of looking at prostate cancer risk, the
researchers who did the new study focused on the risk that the cancer would be
aggressive at the time of diagnosis.
They had a hunch that truck drivers might be vulnerable, because previous
studies had suggested that long-term exposure to the kind of "whole-body
vibration" endured by men working with with heavy equipment could increase
prostate cancer risk. It's not clear why this would be, but one possibility is
that the vibration prompts the body to produce more testosterone, which is a
known risk factor for prostate cancer, according to a 2012 study published in
the Annals of Occupational Hygiene. Another is that vibration can lead to
prostatitis, or inflammation of the prostate gland, which may also be linked to
prostate cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.
The research team -- from the NCI, the Louisiana State University School of
Public Health, the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and the Roswell
Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y. -- looked at medical records and other
data from 2,132 men who were part of the North Carolina-Louisiana Prostate
Cancer Project. Along with other health and demographic information, they told
interviewers about the two jobs where they had spent the most time in their
careers, as well as their most recent job at the time of their diagnosis.
When the researchers crunched the numbers, they found that men who said they
spent more time driving a truck than doing anything else were nearly four times
more likely than educators to be diagnosed with a prostate cancer considered
highly aggressive. (The educators were used as the baseline group because they
were deemed to have pretty much no exposure to whole-body vibration.) These
aggressive cancers had a PSA level greater than 20 nanograms per milliliter of
blood, a Gleason sum of at least 8, or a combination of a Gleason sum of at
least 7 and tumors that were stage T3/T4.
Truck driving had the strongest link to an increased risk of aggressive prostate
cancer, but it wasn't the only occupation associated with higher risk. The
researchers also found that men who worked at a garden shop for at least six
months were 2.33 times more likely than educators to be diagnosed with highly
aggressive prostate cancer. That might be due to exposure to pesticides,
although men who worked as landscapers, exterminators or in other jobs that
involve pesticides were not found to have a heightened risk of aggressive
The researchers presented their results Tuesday at the American Assn. for Cancer
Research's International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research
in National Harbor, Md.
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