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Urinary Tumors May Be Linked to Occupational Asbestos Exposure

A recent Italian study has discussed links between occupational asbestos exposure and the increasing prevalence of urinary tumors, particularly in the kidney and bladder. Researchers from the Cesare Maltoni Cancer Research Center at the Ramazzini Institute, along with support from the Bentivoglio Hospital and University of Bologna, published their report titled, “Urinary apparatus tumors and asbestos: The Ramazzini Institute caseload” in the journal Archivio Italiano di Urologia e Andrologia.

Asbestos and urinary tumors
The team of investigators began their work by expanding on previous studies that examined the relationship between occupational asbestos exposure and urinary tumors. Past evidence has suggested that after workers have been exposed to industrial agents, these products can linger and transform in the body for some time – eventually being expelled via the urinary tract. The Ramazzini Institute examined 23 cases of patients with urinary tumors who were also exposed to asbestos in the workplace.

The study notes that the body primarily flushes out toxic and carcinogenic agents through the renal system. As a result, the kidney and bladder can be exposed to carcinogenic products such as asbestos, which can cause tumors to develop over time. In fact, asbestos fibers have been found in the urine of many at-risk populations – such as factory workers and miners – reinforcing the notion that urinary apparatus tumors can be caused by this hazardous material.

How asbestos enters the renal system
Asbestos can enter the renal system in a number of ways. Urine found with traces of this carcinogen can be traced back to the transfer of asbestos fibers from the gastrointestinal wall and into the circulatory system, transporting them to the urinary tract. People who may have consumed water contaminated with asbestos fibers are also at risk of developing tumors.

The inhalation of asbestos may also lead to urinary tumors. Scientists have suggested that asbestos in the lungs can pass eventually reach the bloodstream. Once in the blood, these asbestos particles can work their way toward the kidneys and liver.

It is plausible that asbestos exposure may play a role in the development of bladder, bile duct, renal cancers and other malignancies, and the research is continuing. However, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), at present there is sufficient medical evidence to state that asbestos caused cancers include only mesothelioma, lung cancer, cancer of the larynx and the ovaries. Therefore, we do not currently recommend litigation in the U.S. for bladder cancers, but constantly review our position as new evidence emerges.

Statistics on asbestos exposure
According to the World Health Organization, asbestos is comprised a group of mineral fibers that can be mined from the ground. While they’ve been used in a variety of industrial products due to their strength and heat resistance – particularly in building insulation and brake pads – asbestos can easily cause cancerous conditions in humans. The most common asbestos-related diseases include mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis and pleural plaques.

Approximately 125 million people around the globe have been exposed to asbestos through their occupations. The WHO estimates that more than 107,000 people die every year from lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis as a result. Additionally, one-third of cases of occupational cancer can be linked to asbestos exposure in some form.

While more than 50 countries have completely banned the use of asbestos in order to protect workers, the U.S. is one of the few nations that has decided to tightly regulate this material instead. By completely banning the use of asbestos in occupational environments, the U.S. can join international efforts to reduce the harmful impact of exposure to this material.

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