It can be an irritant, for sure. As far as cancer.. I'm not sure, but the protection you would use would keep you safe. Gloves, long sleeves and face mask. Absolutely go with the face mask until you get it cut, covered with cloth and installed. If it's a low humidity/low temperature area (indoor AC), I may not bother with the long sleeves, but usually use the gloves. If you do get some in your skin, I like to use gaffers tape and pull it out - yeah, it hurt a little, but stops the itch. Watch getting it in you hair - that can be PITA. A hot shower usually rinses it off well.
Oh for cutting, I like a sharp boning knife - just not
the one from the kitchen.