Health

Asbestos exposure can raise cancer risk

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted June 26, 2006

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Sufficient scientific evidence exists to indicate that asbestos exposure can cause cancer of the larynx, says a new report from the Institute of Medicine. Some evidence also was found that suggested, but ultimately did not prove, that asbestos can cause cancer of the pharynx, stomach, colon and rectum, concluded the committee that wrote the report, which was released June 6.

The IOM undertook the study to answer questions raised in congressional discussions about compensation for people with ailments associated with asbestos exposure. The committee studied the quality, limitations and applicability of 120 epidemiological studies of exposure and cancers of the throat and digestive tract as well as 200 experimental studies.

The committee found compelling evidence that asbestos is associated with an increased incidence of laryngeal cancer and that the risk increases with the intensity and duration of exposure. Laryngeal cancer is relatively rare -- about 9,500 new cases will occur this year -- and 3,740 people will die from it. Smoking and heavy consumption of alcohol have been considered risk factors.

The committee found that there is a suggestion that asbestos is linked to a slightly increased risk of stomach, pharyngeal and colorectal cancer, but the cumulative results of the study were not strong enough to draw conclusions.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2006/06/26/hlbf0626.htm.

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