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J Thorac Oncol. 2015 May;10(5):731-7. doi: 10.1097/JTO.0000000000000506.

The Presence of Asbestos in the Natural Environment is Likely Related to Mesothelioma in Young Individuals and Women from Southern Nevada.

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*Cancer Center, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii; †Department of Geoscience, University of Nevada Las Vegas, Las Vegas, Nevada; ‡Department of Environmental, Geographical and Geological Sciences, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania; and §USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Las Vegas, Nevada.



Inhalation of asbestos and other mineral fibers is known causes of malignant mesothelioma (MM) and lung cancers. In a setting of occupational exposure to asbestos, MM occurs four to eight times more frequently in men than in women, at the median age of 74 years, whereas an environmental exposure to asbestos causes the same number of MMs in men and women, at younger ages.


We studied the geology of Nevada to identify mineral fibers in the environment. We compared MM mortality in different Nevada counties, per sex and age group, for the 1999 to 2010 period.


We identified the presence of carcinogenic minerals in Nevada, including actinolite asbestos, erionite, winchite, magnesioriebeckite, and richterite. We discovered that, compared with the United States and other Nevada counties, Clark and Nye counties, in southern Nevada, had a significantly higher proportion of MM that occurred in young individuals (<55 years) and in women.


The elevated percentage of women and individuals younger than 55 years old, combined with a sex ratio of 1:1 in this age group and the presence of naturally occurring asbestos, suggests that environmental exposure to mineral fibers in southern Nevada may be contributing to some of these mesotheliomas. Further research to assess environmental exposures should allow the development of strategies to minimize exposure, as the development of rural areas continues in Nevada, and to prevent MM and other asbestos-related diseases.

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