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Ann Diagn Pathol. 2003 Oct;7(5):321-32.

Current controversies regarding the role of asbestos exposure in the causation of malignant mesothelioma: the need for an evidence-based approach to develop medicolegal guidelines.

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  • 1Departments of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA 90048, USA.


Asbestos is a group of fibrous silicate minerals that includes two mineralogic groups: amphiboles and serpentines. While the carcinogenic role of amphiboles (eg, crocidolite and amosite) is well established, medical "experts" that tend to strongly advocate their views currently argue in medicolegal cases multiple specific issues regarding the carcinogenicity of asbestos fibers. For example, it is controversial whether chrysotile causes malignant mesothelioma (MM); what are the specific carcinogenic thresholds for amphiboles and chrysotile; what occupations are truly at risk to develop MM as a result of asbestos exposure; what is the role of chrysotile in the development of peritoneal MM; how to assign causation in individuals exposed to multiple industrial products containing variable concentrations of various asbestos fibers; and, what criteria should be used to accept causation in household exposure cases and others. The causation criteria currently acceptable in U.S. courts are surprisingly flexible and subject to variable interpretation by medical "experts." At a time where thousands of individuals are claiming causation of MM by asbestos exposure, there is a need to develop more specific causation guidelines based on scientific evidence. Evidence-based medicine has been proposed as a new approach to the study, teaching, and the practice of medicine and has been used as a process of systematically reviewing the relevant studies in the literature to assess their scientific validity and development of guidelines. This article summarizes some of the current controversies regarding the role of asbestos exposure in the causation of MM and suggests the need for future evidence-based medicine-type studies to develop causation guidelines that could be used consistently during litigation.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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