NIOSHTIC-2 Publications Search
Physical and biological hazards of the workplace, second edition. Wald PH, Stave GM, eds. New York: Wiley-Interscience, 2002 Jan; :637-640
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 USA in hospitals and other healthcare settings. While precise data are not available with respect to the actual number of annual needlestick injuries or other percutaneous injuries among healthcare workers, it is estimated that 600,000-800,000 occur annually and that half of these go unreported. It is estimated that as many as 2800 injuries may occur each year from handling glass capillary tubes. A review of studies reporting needlestick injuries found that 34-50% of health care workers were injured and that 10-70% of those injuries were due to recapping of needles. Studies of hospital workers have shown that the highest incidence of needlestick injuries occurs in housekeeping personnel (during trash disposal) and laboratory and nursing personnel (during needle disposal or recapping). Pathologists and surgeons have also been shown to be at increased risk for cutaneous injuries from sharp instruments and needlesticks (especially involving the distal fingers of the non-dominant hand) during operative procedures. Although the incidence of cutaneous injuries resulting from sharps contaminated, with viable cancer cells is unknown, it probably represents only a small fraction of the cutaneous injuries incurred by potentially exposed workers.
Cancer; Malignancy; Cellular structures; Cell biology; Needlestick injuries; Infection control; Histology; Health care personnel; Health care facilities; Health care; Glass products; Laboratory equipment; Laboratory workers; Nurses; Nursing; Pathology; Surgeons
Wald PH; Stave GM
Physical and biological hazards of the workplace, second edition
Page last reviewed: March 3, 2021
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division