The Prospective Netherland Cohort Study gathered data for more than 17 years on 58,279 Norwegian men between 55 and 69 years of age. The amount of asbestos exposure was estimated by linkage to job-exposure matrices.
Purpose The study was to determine the association between asbestos exposure length and intensity as applied to contracting pleural mesothelioma, lung cancer, and laryngeal cancer. They especially wanted to understand the risks of low-level exposure versus high-level exposure.
Results Interestingly, only two subtypes of the three types of cancer studies were associated solely with higher levels of prolonged, high asbestos exposure: lung adenocarcinoma (form of non-small cell lung cancer) and glottis cancer (subtype of laryngeal cancer that affects vocal chords.)
Only mesothelioma, lung cancer, and laryngeal cancer demonstrated positive associations from all levels of asbestos exposure. Of these three asbestos-related cancers, mesothelioma is by far the most deadly. It is resistant to most treatments and progresses rapidly.
Conclusion The study, which appears in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, January 2014, demonstrates that even asbestos levels at the lower end of the exposure distribution may be associated with increased risks and can trigger pleural mesothelioma, lung cancer, and laryngeal cancer.