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Study Finds Asbestos Strongly Linked To Digestive Cancers

When occupational health experts and advocates talk about asbestos, their conversation is largely geared towards the risk of mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer. But that doesn’t mean that the risks of this dangerous carcinogen are limited to those three illnesses. It has long been suspected that asbestos plays a role in a variety of cancers that afflict those who have been exposed to it, and now a new study out of France has provided confirmation of that risk.

The research was published in the latest issue of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, and the data collected seems to draw a direct line between long term exposure to asbestos and a substantially increased risk of being diagnosed with a number of different digestive cancers, including cancer of the liver, esophagus, colon, and rectum. The study’s author is Dr Mathilde Boulanger of the University of Caen, and she led her colleagues in examining over 2,000 former employees of an asbestos plant. The participants had all worked there in the thirty-one year period between 1978 and 2009, and in addition to exhibiting a higher-than normal incidence of mesothelioma, they also had an almost 50 percent higher than expected rate of digestive cancers than those living in the same region who were not exposed to the deadly substance.

Though mesothelioma was the illness that had the highest statistical association with exposure to asbestos, colorectal cancer was second. Dr .Boulanger said, “Concerning colorectal cancer, a signifiant excess of risk was observed for men with exposure duration above 25 years.” Those who were included in the study were largely men, though among the women included there was an elevated risk of peritoneal mesothelioma, which is a form of the deadly disease that is rarely seen, and originates in the cavity around the heart. There was also enough incidence of esophageal cancer, liver cancer and small intestine cancer to “suggest a possible association” with asbestos exposure.

Though it is concerning that asbestos can cause such a wide array of illness, the greatest challenge continues to lie in treating mesothelioma, for which conventional therapies and treatments have proven to be largely impotent. Mesothelioma patients have extremely short survival times following diagnosis.

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer is an independent writer, editor and proofreader. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Her dreams of a writing career were diverted by a need to pay her bills. She spent a few years providing copy for a major retailer, then landed a lucrative career in advertising sales. With college bills for all three of her kids paid, she left corporate America for a return to her original goal of writing. She specializes in providing content for websites and finds tremendous enjoyment in the things she learns while doing her research. Her specific areas of interest include health and fitness, medical research, and the law.

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