Fatal cancer found among Southern Nevada residents likely caused by asbestos in nature

February 12, 2015, University of Hawaii Cancer Center
A fatal cancer found among Southern Nevada residents likely caused by asbestos in nature
Dr. Michele Carbone, one of the authors of the study. Credit: University of Hawaii Cancer Center

Southern Nevada counties that include Las Vegas show high proportions of women and younger residents coming down with a rare and aggressive cancer more commonly found in older men occupationally exposed to asbestos, suggesting that naturally occurring mineral fibers in that region are a contributing source of the cancers, University of Hawai'i Cancer Center researchers have found.

The findings published in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology highlight the need for more research to guide development in the region, where construction growth, a dry climate, dust storms, and use of off-road recreation vehicles help to make the carcinogenic fibers airborne and breathable by people. These conditions greatly increase the potential for naturally occurring to be blown into the Las Vegas Basin and cause human exposure. Once in the lungs, the fibrous particles cause problems that over time can lead to mesothelioma, a cancer of the organ lining that is aggressive and highly fatal.

"It is important to know where asbestos is in the environment so that future urban development does not encroach on it and we can prevent cancer in the future," said Dr. Michele Carbone, MD, PhD, one of the study authors. "We have made similar discoveries in North Dakota, Turkey and New Caledonia, and we have worked with the local authorities in those locations to remedy the problem to prevent diseases in the future. We hope to do the same in Nevada."

Working with collaborators, Dr. Francine Baumann, PhD, an assistant professor in the UH Cancer Center's Epidemiology Program looked at proportions of people 55 and younger, as well as women, among mesothelioma deaths in Clark and Nye counties in southern Nevada.

Because there is a time lag of several decades from exposure to development of mesothelioma in workers occupationally exposed to asbestos, the disease occurs late in life, around 74 years of age. Instead, the University of Hawai'i study found higher than expected proportions of women and people younger than 55 dying from mesothelioma in southern Nevada. In some cases the individuals were younger than 20, suggesting that the exposure to asbestos occurred early in life, probably as a result of exposure to asbestos in the environment.

Dr. Baumann analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control in the United States from 1999 through 2010 by gender, age group and county, which included a total of 31,526 malignant mesothelioma deaths.

The study found that some of the known sources of carcinogenic fibrous minerals in Nevada occur in unpopulated areas in north and central portions of the state, others near the Las Vegas metropolitan area. The Las Vegas metropolitan area has 1.9 million people either in direct contact with naturally occurring asbestos or residing in areas that for part of the year are downwind from naturally occurring asbestos sources. Portions of the Las Vegas have the regulated asbestos mineral actinolite, as well as other naturally occurring asbestos-like fibrous materials present in rock, soil, and air.

The researchers said further study is needed to inform strategies that would minimize exposure to humans living in these areas.

Explore further: Mesothelioma in southern Nevada likely result of asbestos in environment

Related Stories

Mesothelioma in southern Nevada likely result of asbestos in environment

February 10, 2015
Malignant mesothelioma has been found at higher than expected levels in women and in individuals younger than 55 years old in the southern Nevada counties of Clark and Nye, likewise in the same region carcinogenic mineral ...

Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis cases linked with asbestos exposure

September 9, 2014
A proportion of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) cases may be linked with asbestos exposure, according to the results of a new study. If confirmed, the findings would mean that current treatment strategies need to be altered ...

Mesothelioma risk endures over long-term

September 22, 2014
Western Australian researchers have determined the risk of developing mesothelioma continues to increase even 40 years after a person's first exposure to asbestos.

Cancer from asbestos caused by more than one cell mutation

December 3, 2014
It has been a long held belief that tumors arising from exposure to asbestos are caused by mutations in one cell, which then produces multiple clones. This hypothesis is challenged by new research published in the open access ...

Study identifies new target in treating mesothelioma

July 3, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- An international team of researchers, led by Haining Yang, PhD, from the University of Hawai‘i Cancer Center, has identified HMGB1 as a critical protein in the pathogenesis of malignant mesothelioma, ...

Recommended for you

Scientists reveal likely cause of childhood leukaemia

May 21, 2018
A major new analysis reveals for the first time the likely cause of most cases of childhood leukaemia, following more than a century of controversy about its origins.

Compound in citrus oil could reduce dry mouth in head, neck cancer patients

May 21, 2018
A compound found in citrus oils could help alleviate dry mouth caused by radiation therapy in head and neck cancer patients, according to a new study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Ice cream funds research showing new strategy against thyroid cancer

May 21, 2018
Anaplastic thyroid cancer is almost uniformly fatal, with an average lifespan of about 5 months after diagnosis. And standard treatment for the condition includes 7 weeks of radiation, often along with chemotherapy.

Bladder cancer model could pave the way for better drug efficacy studies

May 21, 2018
Understanding that not all bladder cancers are the same, researchers at the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center have created a tool that may help them to uncover why only a fraction of patients ...

MR spectroscopy imaging reveals effects of targeted treatment of mutant IDH1 gliomas

May 18, 2018
Using a novel imaging method, a Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) research team is investigating the mechanisms behind a potential targeted treatment for a subtype of the deadly brains tumors called gliomas. In their report ...

Particle shows promise to prevent the spread of triple-negative breast cancer

May 18, 2018
USC researchers have pinpointed a remedy to prevent the spread of triple-negative breast cancer. Metastatic breast cancer is a leading cause of death for women. The findings appear today in Nature Communications.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.