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Study links asbestos exposure to ovarian cancer

The link between asbestos exposure and lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis is well-documented, having been proven both by medical tests and by the thousands of people who succumb to these debilitating diseases every year. For many years, researchers have been working to prove their theory that exposure to asbestos is linked to a greater risk for ovarian cancer.

Recently, a study from the University of Illinois at Chicago has confirmed that link. Despite the promising breakthrough, researchers have yet to determine exactly how and why asbestos exposure increases the susceptibility to ovarian cancer.

For several years, researchers around the world have been working to establish a causal connection between exposure to asbestos and ovarian cancer. Recent developments in medical imaging and diagnostics ultimately gave the University of Illinois researchers the ability to conduct research with greater accuracy. These technological improvements allowed researchers to determine if tumors were peritoneal mesothelioma and ovarian cancer.

Using the new technology, researchers analyzed the cases of 18 women who had been exposed to asbestos in the workplace. They reached the result that women who had been exposed were approximately one and three-quarters times more likely to develop ovarian cancer as those who had not been exposed.

Now that the link has been solidly established, researchers are focusing on why that link exists, and how asbestos increases the susceptibility to, and likelihood of, ovarian cancer. Specifically, they are working to determine how asbestos fibers make their way into the ovaries. Current hypotheses are that fibers are transported through the reproductive tract, the bloodstream or lymph system, or that they penetrate the ovary through the mesothelium.

Source: Royal School of Chemistry, "Asbestos linked to ovarian cancer," Sarah Houlton, 9 June 2011

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