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Could your cancer be considered a worker-related disease?

Cancer is a disease that still continues to baffle medical science—despite all of the funding that goes toward research, not all of the causes of cancer are known and the exact mechanisms that set the disease in motion are still not understood.

However, there is an increasing awareness that some occupations expose workers to more than the average amount of carcinogens—which are cancer-causing agents that can be found in a variety of substances that can make their way into the human body. Some of the more commonly-known carcinogens include things like arsenic, lead, mercury, radon and asbestos. There are also substances like ultraviolet light, which won't hurt you in small doses but can lead to skin cancer after repeated, long-term exposure.

At one point, the link between cancer and someone's occupation was virtually unrecognized—for example, nobody made the connection between asbestos and lung cancer for years until more and more workers involved in the manufacturing and construction industry became ill and a common denominator was found.

Now that the links are better understood, cancer is often considered a work-related illness depending on the type of work that you did, what carcinogens or other toxins you were exposed to while working and what type of cancer you've developed.

For example, there's been a great deal of media attention focused on the rising cancer rates among first-responders, particularly firefighters. Some states have even enacted legislation that is presumes that when a firefighter develops certain types of cancer that it is work-related—which makes it an illness for which you are entitled to compensation.

Despite all of the increased knowledge about the dangers that occupational exposure to toxic substances poses to workers, actually getting the workers' compensation insurer your employer uses to pay up can be difficult.

There are some insurers who persist in seeing the connection between occupational exposure to toxic substances and cancer as a mere coincidence, or even something largely fabricated to fill a need that lawyers have in order to maintain their incomes now that stricter regulations and safety controls in workplaces have cut down on the types of "traditional" claims, like amputations and blunt force trauma, that used to be seen.

If you're having difficulty collecting workers' compensation benefits due to cancer that you and your doctor believe is the result of your occupational exposure to carcinogens, consider contacting an attorney for help as soon as possible.

Source: FindLaw, "Workers' Comp In-Depth," accessed Jan. 16, 2017

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