Stomach cancer, also known as gastric cancer, occurs when the cells in the lining of the stomach begin to grow rapidly. Stomach cancers develop slowly over a long period of time—before a physical tumor appears, changes often occur in the inner lining of the stomach, which do not have symptoms and often go unnoticed.
There are several different types of stomach cancers. The most common type of stomach cancer is adenocarcinoma, where cancer begins in the mucus-producing cells that line the stomach. Adenocarcinoma makes up about 90-95% of all stomach cancer cases. (cancer.com) Other types of stomach cancer include lymphoma, gastrointestinal stromal tumors, and carcinoid tumors. According to the Institute of Medicine Committee on Asbestos, stomach cancer remains the second most fatal cancer worldwide, with over 22,000 new cases every year. Owing to a shortage of epidemiological studies, exceptionally rare forms of gastric cancer can be difficult to relate to prior toxic exposures.
There are several risk factors that can increase one’s chances of getting stomach cancer. Workers in industrial settings such as railroads, factories, and refineries are at increased risk of getting stomach cancer. These workers typically endure exposures to nitrogen oxides, metal dust, asbestos, and silica, known causes of stomach cancer.
Co-Morbidities for Stomach Cancer
Other risk factors for stomach cancer include a history of gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD), tobacco use, poor diet and exercise patterns and certain infections like Helicobacter pylori (H pylori). Individuals may also have a family history of stomach cancer. Defendant railroads will undoubtedly analyze medical records and argue that the former railroad worker’s stomach cancer was caused by something other than workplace exposures to toxins.
Stomach Cancer and Diesel Exposure
Many studies have suggested that exposure to certain substances in the workplace increases one’s risk of stomach cancer. According to a 1998 study on links between occupational exposures and gastric cancer, workers in the motor transport industry and any industry working around gasoline are at greater risk of getting stomach cancer.
A case-control study conducted by John Hopkins University found that gastric cancer risk was significantly increased in industries where workers are exposed to metal dusts including beryllium, chromium, and nickel. All three of these metals are found in diesel exhaust particulates. So, if someone is exposed to diesel soot, day in and day out, that person is in turn suffering chronic exposures to beryllium, chromium, and nickel – known causes of stomach cancer.
Other Toxins that Cause Stomach Cancer
Silica can be found in the dust that is created when industrial materials are drilled, grinded, or otherwise broken down. Railroad locomotives use silica to aid in braking. Many crafts of railroad employees, from engineers to machinists, suffer chronic silica exposures.
Asbestos is also a known cause of gastrointestinal cancers, including colorectal, esophageal, laryngeal and gastric. In cases of stomach cancer, the asbestos fibers that were swallowed and deposited in the stomach cause the malignancy.
Nitrogen oxides are typically generated when diesel engines emit exhaust. These oxides irritate the mucus lining in the stomach. Therefore, workers that spend a lot of time around diesel exhaust in industries like the railroad can be at a higher risk of stomach cancer.
Lead exposures can also contribute to stomach cancer. Individuals burning off lead-based paints or sandblasting lead paint without a respirator endure toxic lead exposures that can later cause stomach cancer. One of our Bridges & Buildings railroad clients experienced lead dust exposures that were estimated to be 50,000 times higher than the current permissible limit. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, he used a bandana for breathing protection while sandblasting lead paint off railroad bridges.
Importance of Stomach Cancer Screenings
Most people with stomach cancer learn they are fighting the disease after the cancer has already spread to other parts of the body. This is because symptoms of stomach cancer typically do not occur until the cancer has matured past its initial stages. This makes stomach cancer harder to detect early on. Symptoms that can occur once the cancer has matured include fatigue, vomiting, unintentional and unexplained weight loss, nausea, heartburn, and feeling bloated and full after eating small amounts of food.
The main test used to diagnose gastric cancer is an endoscopy, where a small camera is passed down an individual’s throat into the stomach in order to look for abnormalities. Once detected, a patient can choose many paths to treatment. Treatment of stomach cancer is dependent not only on how developed the cancer is, but also where in the stomach the cancer is located. Radiation therapy, chemotherapy, certain medications, and partial or complete removal of the stomach via surgery (known as a gastrectomy) are all methods used that can help treat stomach cancer and prevent a relapse.
Contact a Railroad Cancer Lawyer
If you’re a current or former railroad worker diagnosed with stomach cancer, call Hughes Law Offices today to be interviewed by one of our attorneys. You can reach an attorney by calling 312-877-5588.
Illustrative Stomach Cancer Cases
$950,000 settlement – 60-year-old railroad track man was diagnosed with gastric cancer and died. Plaintiff was employed by Conrail and New Jersey Transit for 18 years, where he was exposed to diesel exhaust, creosote, calcium chloride, herbicides and pesticides on the job.
(Stella Quattrocchi, as personal representative for the Estate of Filippo Quattrocchi v. New Jersey Transit and Conrail)
$3,000,000 verdict — 65-year-old wife of a paper mill worker received secondary “take-home exposure” to the asbestos her husband was exposed to while on the job. Plaintiff was diagnosed with mesothelioma and stomach cancer. She prevailed against eight defendants on negligence and failure to warn claims regarding the danger of the workplace exposures.
(Berry v. Foster Wheeler)
$10,017,000 settlement – four plaintiffs, who lived in homes near a toxic plant, brought suit against Honeywell International, Inc. regarding their operation of a chromate chemical product facility which generated Chromium Ore Processing Residue. The plaintiffs’ chromium residue exposure was found to raise their risk of developing stomach cancer among other medical conditions.
(Mattie Halley, Shem Onditi, Leticia Malave, and Sergio de la Cruz, On Behalf of Themselves and all Others Similarly Situated, v. Honeywell International, Inc.)