Asbestos exposure is associated with mesothelioma and cancer of the lung, larynx and ovary. However, the association between asbestos exposure and colorectal cancer is controversial despite several systematic reviews of the literature, including a number of meta-analyses. We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis to evaluate quantitatively the association between exposure to asbestos and colorectal cancer. We searched for articles on occupational asbestos exposure and colorectal cancer in PubMed, EMBASE and Web of Science published before April 2018. In total, 44 articles were selected and 46 cohort studies were analysed. The overall pooled risk estimates and corresponding 95% CIs of the association between occupational asbestos exposure and colorectal cancer were calculated using a random-effects model. Subgroup analyses and sensitivity tests were also performed. There was a significantly increased risk of colorectal cancer mortality among workers exposed to asbestos occupationally, with an overall pooled SMR of 1.16 (95% CI: 1.05 to 1.29). The pooled SMR for colorectal cancer was elevated in studies in which the asbestos-associated risk of lung cancer was also elevated (1.43; 95% CI: 1.30 to 1.56). This implies that the risk of colorectal cancer mortality increases as the level of asbestos exposure rises. A sensitivity analysis showed robust results and there was no publication bias. Although the effect size was small and the heterogeneity among studies was large, our findings indicate that occupational exposure to asbestos is a risk factor for colorectal cancer.
- GI tract
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