Workers at risk include (i) laboratory workers who handle malignant cells during the performance of in vitro and in vivo research, (ii) histology and pathology workers involved in the preparation and processing of neoplastic tissues, (iii) medical and nursing staff involved in surgical procedures (i.e., aspirates, biopsies, and resections) on cancer patients, (iv) surgical scrub personnel handling sharp instruments contaminated with malignant cells, and (v) housekeeping workers (especially those in cancer research areas) exposed to sharp objects contaminated with malignant cells.
The occupational risk of cancer occurring in humans from exposure to malignant cells is not well recognized, owing to the few cases reported in the medical literature. Based on these reports, the most likely route of occupational transmission involves needlestick or sharp object injuries whereby malignant cells are cutaneously injected or possibly implanted into an open wound. This risk is best understood by the well-described occurrence of occupational transmission of infectious diseases such as HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C via needlesticks or other sharp objects (i.e., surgical instruments, histologic tissue cutters, broken capillary tubes, and pipettes).
There are currently more than 8 million healthcare workers in the United States in hospitals and other healthcare settings. While precise data are not available ...