Asbestos may raise risk of non-lung cancers

From ABC Science Online, News in Science, 27 August 2012:

Children exposed to blue asbestos may face more wide-ranging health problems in adulthood than mesothelioma and lung cancer, according to an Australian study.

Researchers from Western Australia analysed health data from children who lived at Wittenoom, a now-abandoned WA town where blue asbestos was mined for nearly 20 years.

The results, reported in the journal American Journal of Industrial Medicine , indicate exposure to blue asbestos in early childhood elevated the risk of a range of cancers and even heart disease in adulthood.

Among women who spent a childhood at Wittenoom, the risk of mesothelioma (asbestos-related lung disease) was 70 to 113 times greater than among the general population.

They also had a roughly four-fold increase in risk of brain cancer and three-fold increase in the risk of ovarian cancer.

The increase in risk of mesothelioma was slightly lower in men than in women, but men also showed an increased risk of brain, colorectal and prostate cancer, and leukaemia.

While the total numbers of cancers were still small, researchers say this was the first study to report on cancer incidence and mortality in adults exposed to blue asbestos as children.

“This is a unique cohort of nearly 2,500 children with quantitative measures of asbestos exposure, exposure to a known asbestos type (crocidolite) and good followup,” the researchers write.

“Most of this cohort has now reached an age when chronic adult diseases are becoming more prevalent and potential associations between adult disease and childhood exposures can be explored.”Read more here.

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