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Asbestos linked to colon polyps.

A new study indicates that people exposed to significant amounts of asbestos may face an increased risk of colon polyps, small, grape-shaped growths that can become malignant.

Although epidemiologists have linked the mineral asbestos to the development of colon cancer in the past, this is the first time scientists have shown an association between asbestos and colon polyps. The finding suggests that asbestos may act very early to trigger the wart-like polyps, says epidemiologist Alfred I. Neugut of Columbia University's School of Public Health.

He and his colleagues identified patients who had undergone colonoscopy at two New York City medical centers between April 1986 and March 1988. After reviewing medical charts, the researchers discovered 51 men with colon cancer, 153 men with colon polyps and 195 who showed no sign of colon cancer or polyps. They asked the men a series of questions, including questions about their exposure to asbestos, the fibrous mineral widely used as an insulating and fireproofing material.

A statistical analysis revealed that men who reported heavy exposure to asbestos had a greater risk of colon cancer or polyps than did men who reported little or no asbestos exposure. The team describes its results in the Dec. 18 JOURNAL OF THE NATIONAL CANCER INSTITUTE.

Neugut cautions that these findings remain very preliminary. The researchers identified only 12 men with significant asbestos exposure -- a group too small to yield definitive results, he says. A larger study would help strengthen the evidence linking asbestos to colon polyps, he notes.
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Publication:Science News
Date:Jan 11, 1992
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