Primary prevention carried out today can reduce the disease incidence in the future decades. The present disease panorama is the consequence of past asbestos exposure mainly before the 1970s. The peak incidence of asbestos-induced diseases will be reached around 2010 in Finland. The number of asbestos-related premature deaths is at present annually about 150 which exceeds the figure of fatal work accidents. Asbestos-related cancer will increase still for 15-20 years and reach its maximum, about 300 cases, in 2010, and will start to decrease after that. More than 20,000 asbestos-exposed workers have participated in the medical screening and follow-up. The termination of exposure, antismoking campaigns, improved diagnostics and careful attention to compensation issues, as well as other potentials for prevention, were the central issue of the Asbestos Program of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health. An important objective of research work is to improve early diagnostics, and thereby treatment prospects, in case of asbestos-induced cancers.
The aim of the study was to investigate the asbestos-associated risk of lung cancer according to histological type of cancer, lobe of origin, pulmonary concentration, and type of amphibole fibers and also to estimate the etiologic fraction of asbestos for lung cancer.
The pulmonary concentration of asbestos fibers in 113 surgically treated male lung cancer patients and 297 autopsy cases among men serving as referents was determined by scanning electron microscopy. The age- and smoking-adjusted odds ratios of lung cancer were calculated according to pulmonary fiber concentration for all lung cancer types, squamous-cell carcinoma, and adenocarcinoma and for the lower-lobe and the upper- and middle-lobe cancers.
The risk of lung cancer was increased according to the pulmonary concentration of asbestos fibers (f) of 1.0 to 4.99 x 10(6) f.g-1 [odds ratio (OR) 1.7] and > or = 5.0 x 10(6) f.g-1 (OR 5.3). The odds ratios associated with fiber concentrations of > or = 1.0 x 10(6) f.g-1 were higher for adenocarcinoma (OR 4.0) than for squamous-cell carcinoma (OR 1.6). The asbestos-associated risk was higher for lower lobe tumors than for upper lobe tumors. The risk estimates for anthophyllite and crocidolite-amosite fibers were similar, except for the risk of squamous-cell carcinoma. An etiologic fraction of 19% was calculated for asbestos among male surgical lung cancer patients in the greater Helsinki area.
Past exposure to asbestos is a significant factor in the etiology of lung cancer in southern Finland. The asbestos-associated risk seems to be higher for pulmonary adenocarcinoma and lower-lobe tumors than for squamous-cell carcinoma and upper-lobe tumors.
OBJECTIVES: The incidence of cancer among employees of a Norwegian asbestos-cement factory was studied in relation to duration of exposure and time since first exposure. The factory was active in 1942-1968. Most of the asbestos in use was chrysotile, but for technical reasons 8% amphiboles was added. METHODS: For the identification of cancer cases, a cohort of 541 male workers was linked to the Cancer Registry of Norway. The analysis was based on the comparison between the observed and expected number of cancer cases. Standardized incidence ratios (SIR) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) were estimated. Period of first employment, duration of employment, and time since first employment were used as indicators of exposure. Poisson regression analysis was used for the internal comparisons. RESULTS: The standardized incidence ratio was 52.5 (95% CI 31.1-83.0) for pleural mesothelioma, on the basis of 18 cases. The highest standardized incidence ratio was found for workers first employed in the earliest production period (SIR 99.0, 95% CI 51.3-173). No peritoneal mesothelioma was found. The standardized incidence ratio for lung cancer was 3.1 (95% CI 2.14.3), but no dose-response effect was observed. The ratio of mesothelioma to lung cancer cases was 1:2. CONCLUSIONS: This study showed a high incidence of mesothelioma and a high ratio of mesothelioma to lung cancer among asbestos-cement workers. The high incidence of mesothelioma was probably due to the fact that a relatively high proportion of amphiboles was used in the production process.
It has been suspected for many years that amphibole fibres in the tremolite series, a low level contaminant of chrysotile asbestos, may contribute disproportionately to the incidence of mesothelioma and perhaps other exposure-related cancers. A cohort of some 11,000 Quebec chrysotile workers, 80% of whom have now died, provided the opportunity to examine this hypothesis further. An analysis was made of deaths from mesothelioma (21), cancers of the lung (262), larynx (15), stomach (99), and colon and rectum (76), in men employed by the largest company in Thetford Mines, with closely matched referents. Risks were estimated by logistic regression for these five cancers in two groups of mines--five mines located centrally and ten mines located peripherally; tremolite contamination had been demonstrated to be some four times higher in the former than in the latter. Odds ratios for work in the central mines were raised substantially and significantly for mesothelioma and lung cancer, but not for the gastric, intestinal or laryngeal cancer sites. In the peripheral mines, there was little or no evidence of increased risk for any of the five cancers. The hypothesis that, because of the difference in distribution of fibrous tremolite, cancer risks in the central area would be greater than in the periphery was thus substantiated. That the explanation may lie in the greater biopersistence of amphibole fibres than chrysotile is important in framing policies for the use and control of asbestos and is directly relevant to the selection of man-made mineral fibre substitutes.
To attempt to determine the mineralogic factors that relate to the appearance of specific types of asbestos-related disease in workers with heavy mixed exposure to amphiboles and chrysotile, we analyzed the pulmonary asbestos fiber burden in a series of 144 shipyard workers and insulators from the Pacific Northwest. Amosite was found in all lungs, and tremolite and chrysotile in most lungs, but the vast majority of fibers were amosite. Tremolite and chrysotile concentrations were significantly correlated, indicating that the tremolite originated from chrysotile products, but no correlation was found between tremolite or chrysotile concentration and amosite concentration. Time since last exposure was correlated with decreasing amosite concentration and the calculated clearance half time was about 20 yr. In a multiple regression analysis that accounted for the presence of more than one disease in many subjects, a high concentration of amosite fibers was correlated with the presence of airway fibrosis and asbestosis, whereas subjects with mesothelioma, lung cancer, pleural plaques, or no asbestos-related disease had about the same, much lower, amosite concentration. No relationship was found between the concentration of chrysotile or tremolite and any disease. Analysis of fiber size measures (length, width, aspect ratio, surface, mass) showed that pleural plaques were strongly associated with high aspect ratio amosite fibers and suggested that mesotheliomas were associated with low aspect ratio amosite fibers.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)
Four cases of mesothelioma in a cohort of 999 Finnish anthophyllite miners and millers are described. Three deaths were due to pleural mesothelioma and one to peritoneal mesothelioma among the total of 503 male deaths up to 1991. All four patients with mesothelioma had had long term (13 to 31 years) exposure in anthophyllite mining and milling. The latency time from the onset of employment until diagnosis was 39 to 58 years. All four patients were smokers or ex-smokers and had asbestosis. In three of the cases the pulmonary fibre concentration and fibre type were analysed by transmission electron microscopy. High concentrations (270 to 1100 million fibres/g dry tissue) of anthophyllite fibres were detected. The anthophyllite fibres were thicker and had lower aspect ratios than the values reported for crocidolite fibres retained in the lungs of patients with mesothelioma.
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A cohort of 736 male and 167 female workers of two anthophyllite mines in Finland was followed up through the Finnish Cancer Registry for cancer in 1953-91. Compared with the total cancer incidence of the east Finnish population, the men had a raised risk of total cancer (standardised incidence ratio (SIR) 1.7; 95% confidence interval (95% CI) 1.4-1.9), mainly attributable to an excess in lung cancer (SIR 2.8; 95% CI 2.2-3.6). The risk of lung cancer was somewhat higher among workers classified as heavily exposed (SIR 3.2; 95% CI 2.4-4.1) than among those moderately exposed (SIR 2.3; 95% CI 1.5-3.6) and the risk increased with increasing smoking and with increasing time of work with exposure. There were four cases of mesothelioma v 0.1 expected, all in men who smoked and had had a long and heavy asbestos exposure. Among women, a non-significant excess in total cancer (SIR 1.5; 95% CI 0.9-2.4) was found in the subgroup with heavy exposure to asbestos. Anthophyllite asbestos seems to have high potency in the carcinogenesis of lung cancer and low potency in carcinogenesis of mesothelioma in comparison with the other types of asbestos.
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Fiber dimension and concentration may vary substantially between two necropsy populations of former chrysotile miners and millers of Thetford-Mines and Asbestos regions. This possibility could explain, at least in part, the higher incidence of respiratory diseases among workers from Thetford-Mines than among workers from the Asbestos region. The authors used a transmission electron microscope, equipped with an x-ray energy-dispersive spectrometer, to analyze lung mineral fibers of 86 subjects from the two mining regions and to classify fiber sizes into three categories. The most consistent difference was the higher concentration of tremolite in lung tissues of workers from Thetford-Mines, compared with workers from the Asbestos region. Amosite and crocidolite were also detected in lung tissues of several workers from the Asbestos region. No consistent and biologically important difference was found for fiber dimension; therefore, fiber dimension does not seem to be a factor that accounts for the difference in incidence of respiratory diseases between the two groups. The greater incidence of respiratory diseases among workers of Thetford-Mines can be explained by the fact that they had greater exposure to fibers than did workers at the Asbestos region. Among the mineral fibers studied, retention of tremolite fibers was most apparent.
In a cohort of some 11,000 men born 1891-1920 and employed in the Quebec chrysotile production industry, including a small asbestos products factory, of 9780 men who survived into 1936, 8009 are known to have died before 1993, 38 probably from mesothelioma--33 in miners and millers and five in factory workers. Among the 5041 miners and millers at Thetford Mines, there had been 4125 deaths from all causes, including 25 (0.61%) from mesothelioma, a rate of 33.7 per 100,000 subject-years; the corresponding figures for the 4031 men at Asbestos were eight out of 3331 (0.24%, or 13.2 per 100,000 subject-years). At the factory in Asbestos, where all 708 employees were potentially exposed to crocidolite and/or amosite, there were 553 deaths, of which five (0.90%) were due to mesothelioma; the rate of 46.2 per 100,000 subject-years was 3.5 times higher than among the local miners and millers. Six of the 33 cases in miners and millers were in men employed from 2 to 5 years and who might have been exposed to asbestos elsewhere; otherwise, the 22 cases at Thetford were in men employed 20 years or more and the five at Asbestos for at least 30 years. The cases at Thetford were more common in miners than in millers, whereas those at. Asbestos were all in millers. Within Thetford Mines, case-referent analyses showed a substantially increased risk associated with years of employment in a circumscribed group of five mines (Area A), but not in a peripherally distributed group of ten mines (Area B); nor was the risk related to years employed at Asbestos, either at the mine and mill or at the factory. There was no indication that risks were affected by the level of dust exposure. A similar pattern in the prevalence of pleural calcification had been observed at Thetford Mines in the 1970s. These geographical differences, both within the Thetford region and between it and Asbestos, suggest that the explanation is mineralogical. Lung tissue analyses showed that the concentration of tremolite fibres was much higher in Area A than in Area B, a finding compatible with geological knowledge of the region. These findings, probably related to the far greater biopersistence of amphibole fibres than chrysotile, have important implications in the control of asbestos related disease and for wider aspects of fibre toxicology.
Comment In: Ann Occup Hyg. 2001 Jun;45(4):327-9; author reply 336-811414249