Gastrointestinal Cancer and its Link to Asbestos

Asbestos exposure is the causal link between the prognosis and development of numerous diseases. The deadly diseases caused by exposure to the dangerous to the mineral include mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer. Possible links are being studied between exposure to asbestos and cancer of the esophagus, gastrointestinal tract, stomach, colon, and larynx. The increased risk of gastrointestinal cancer for those exposed to asbestos was first reported in 1964. Subsequent studies suggest there is a relation between the cancer and asbestos exposure, although definite results have not yet been established. The inconsistency of these studies leaves many unanswered questions. If you or a loved one has developed gastrointestinal cancer after being exposed to asbestos, contact an asbestos attorney today for a legal consultation.

Gastrointestinal cancer, as it relates to asbestos exposure, is caused by ingestion of the mineral through drinking water. Mesothelioma and lung cancers result from inhalation of airborne asbestos fibers. Contamination of public drinking water results from either the presence of asbestos-cement pipes installed prior to the 1979 or from natural deposits. The severity of ingestion of asbestos depends on many factors including the the length of the pipe, ability of water to leak from the pipe, and the age of the pipe.

Gastrointestinal cancers, as defined by the International Classification of Diseases, include cancers of the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon, rectum, liver, gall bladder, pancreas, and peritoneum.

A study by the Cancer Registry of Norway reported the results of gastrointestinal tract cancer in a cohort of 726 lighthouse keepers first employed between 1917 and 1967. The individuals were followed up for regarding their incidence of cancer from 1960 to 2002. Weathering of asbestos-cement roof tiles by rainwater runoff used for drinking water was the source of asbestos exposure among the lighthouse keepers.

Risk of stomach cancer was elevated in the whole cohort, in the subgroup with definite asbestos exposure, and when the group was followed for 20 years and more after first possible exposure. Less consistent results were found for colon cancer. The results support the hypothesis of an association between ingested asbestos and gastrointestinal cancer risk in general and stomach cancer specifically.

Observation of increased mortality and incidence of lung cancer, mesothelioma, and gastrointestinal cancer in occupationally exposed workers are consistent across investigators and study populations. A 1980 study of cancer deaths in 722 tracts in the San Francisco Bay area used cancer incidence data from the period of 1969 to 1971. Chrysotile asbestos (the most commonly used) concentrations in drinking water reportedly caused a correlation between asbestos levels and stomach cancer in both sexes. An extension of this study found a positive association between asbestos concentration and cancer of the digestive organs in white females and cancers of the digestive tract in white males. These associations appeared to be independent of socioeconomic status and occupational exposure to asbestos.

An important limitation of both case-controlled and ecologic studies is the short follow-up time relative to the long latent period for the appearance of tumors from asbestos exposure. Other possible confounding factors affecting the results include the possible underestimates of occupational exposure to asbestos and the possible misclassification of peritoneal mesothelioma as gastrointestinal cancer.

Erosion of rock containing asbestos was the source of contamination in several other study locations other than the Bay Area of California, which include: Quebec, Canada, and the Puget Sound region of Washington State. Dumping of mine tailing waste into Lake Superior resulted in asbestos in the water supply in Duluth, Minnesota.

Preventative public health policy suggests that new asbestos cement pipes should not be installed to carry water, especially if the water is corrosive. Also, water supply systems using existing asbestos cement pipes should be monitored, especially in areas where the water has corrosive properties, and replaced if necessary.

The systematic or multi-carcinogenic potential of asbestos is dangerous, and the confounding nature of the mineral heightens this danger. If you believe exposure to asbestos, whether through ingestion or inhalation, caused development of an asbestos-related illness, call an asbestos attorney immediately to evaluate your claim.

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