The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Hawaii, and published in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology (2/7/15). Researchers were concerned by an increase in the number of women and young people who developed cancer that was more commonly found in men who worked with or around asbestos.
The reason for the concern is that asbestos-related diseases typically take decades to appear after exposure. So a man who works with asbestos in his 30s might not develop asbestosis or mesothelioma until his 50s or 60s. For people to develop mesothelioma in their 20s or younger without having worked with it suggests naturally occurring asbestos fibers might be posing health risks, and exposure may be occurring at a very young age.
“In a setting of occupational exposure to asbestos, MM [malignant mesothelioma] occurs 4-8 times more frequently in men than in women, at the median age of 74 years, while an environmental exposure to asbestos causes the same number of MMs in men and women, at younger ages,” researchers wrote in the background to the study.
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This suggests that “environmental exposure to mineral fibers in southern Nevada may be contributing to some of these mesotheliomas.” The study’s authors recommend that further research on environmental exposure to asbestos be done, to allow for strategies to minimize exposure in areas where naturally occurring asbestos is found.
Areas such as Nevada especially, where construction, dust storms and a dry climate may all combine to increase the risk of asbestos being inhaled, may be more susceptible to asbestos-related health problems.