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Am J Epidemiol. 2000 Feb 1;151(3):259-65.

Environmental exposure to tremolite and respiratory cancer in New Caledonia: a case-control study.

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Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale Saint-Maurice, France.


A case-control study on respiratory cancers was conducted in New Caledonia (South Pacific), where a high incidence of malignant pleural mesothelioma had been observed. The disease pattern suggested an environmental exposure to asbestos. The first results showed that, in some areas, tremolite asbestos derived from local outcroppings was used as whitewash (locally named "pö"). All cases diagnosed between 1993 and 1995 (including 15 pleural mesotheliomas, 228 lung cancers, and 23 laryngeal cancers) and 305 controls were included in the study. Detailed information on past or present use of the whitewash, residential history, smoking, diet, and occupation was collected. The risk of mesothelioma was strongly associated with the use of the whitewash (odds ratio (OR) = 40.9; 95% confidence interval (CI): 5.15, 325). All Melanesian cases had been exposed. Among Melanesian women, exposure to the whitewash was associated with an increased risk of lung cancer (OR = 4.89; 95% CI: 1.13, 21.2), and smokers exposed to po had an approximately ninefold risk (OR = 9.26; 95% CI: 1.72, 49.7) compared with women who never smoked and had never used the whitewash. In contrast, no association was noted between exposure to pö and lung cancer risk among Melanesian men, probably because of lower exposure levels. Among non-Melanesians, the numbers of exposed subjects were too small to assess the effect of exposure to po. There was no indication of elevated risks for the other cancer sites.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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