Asbestos is considered a confirmed carcinogen for ovarian cancer. The IARC classification was based on data from cohorts of exposed women and mechanistic data. However, no data are available in ovarian cancer populations.
The objective of the present descriptive study was to assess direct and indirect occupational and environmental rates of asbestos fibre exposure in women with ovarian cancer, and quantify exposure.
Postal requests to take part in the study were addressed to patients managed for ovarian cancer in several departments of the Lyon University Hospital Centre and Léon Bérard Cancer Centre between January 2010 and December 2012. Personal and occupational data were collected by telephone on a standardised questionnaire. Direct occupational exposure, indirect exposure via occupational exposure of family members, and environmental exposure were assessed by an industrial hygienist.
162 patients were included (participation rate 50%), with a mean age of 58 years. The industrial hygienist who assessed the asbestos exposure based on occupational data and questionnaire items related to asbestos exposure estimated that 29 women (18%) may have had direct exposure during their working life, and that 3.7% may have been indirectly exposed via occupational exposure of family members; 2 patients were thought to have had environmental exposure. Occupational exposure levels were probably fairly low: 14.2% of patients (n = 23) had exposure exceeding environmental norms but below 30% of the occupational exposure limit (100 f/l); 3.2% (n = 5) had exposure at 30–75%, and 0.7% (n = 1) had exposure approximating or exceeding the occupational exposure limit.
The prevalence of occupational asbestos exposure in the present population was significantly higher than for women of the same age in the French general population, estimated at 4% in 2007 by the French institute for public health surveillance. The IARC classification and the present findings should encourage increased attention to asbestos exposure in ovarian cancer patients.
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