Jul 15, 2009 - 10:30 am
I don't see or hear much discussion about the causes--suspected or actual--of our thyroid cancers. When mine was first diagnosed I read that exposure to radiation was the main suspect but the studies weren't very conclusive.
That was almost 4 years ago so there may be more recent studies that point in other directions but I still hold to the radiation exposure theory. Perhaps my chronically enlarged lymph nodes in my neck were irradiated when I was a child...my mother has no recollection of it, though.
I eventually arrived at a pet theory about mine, probably a little far fetched but here goes.
Back in the late 80s I built a large steel sailboat in my backyard, doing about 99 percent of the welding by myself. Since I wasn't a pro weldor it was a part time effort, usually spending an hour or two in the afternoons after work and many more hours during weekends. Many of the short welding sessions were done when I could grab a little extra time, and I rarely wore ALL of the recommended safety gear. I used a welding helmet, of course, but many times I was in my shirt sleeves. I soon learned how much exposure to the welding arc my skin could tolerate without getting "sun" burned...10 or 15 minutes, perhaps, so I wasn't too concerned.
It was around this time that I started needing bifocal glasses. When a pro weldor reaches that stage he will either get corrective lenses built into his helmet or he'll get upside down bifocal glasses, with the "reading" lenses at the top. Welding helmets not only protect the eyes and face, they extend down several inches to protect the lower neck and upper chest. In order to see the weld through the dark lens someone wearing ordinary bifocals has to raise his head so he will be looking through the "reading" lenses. Upside down bifocals encourage the proper use of the helmet, head down, with the lower portion of the helmet protecting the neck and chest.
Since I had no intention of doing this professionally I used a standard helmet and ordinary bifocals. This meant my lower neck was exposed to the arc light and heat, a portion of which is UV rays that would leave me with mild sunburn. I had to raise my head to see the weld which brought the helmet up away from my neck and upper chest.
If this is where my cancer got its start I would think there may be a higher instance of thyroid cancers in people who spent some time as arc weldors, either professionally or as part-timers like myself.