WASHINGTONThere is sufficient evidence to show that asbestos exposure can cause cancer of the larynx, according to a new report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM). However, evidence that such exposure may cause cancers of the pharynx, stomach, colon, and rectum, while suggestive, is "ultimately insufficient" to link asbestos to those diseases, and the evidence remains inadequate to reach any conclusion about this group of minerals as a cause of esophageal cancer, the IOM said.
Asbestos is a well-established cause of lung cancer and mesothelioma. However, its potential role in a number of cancers of the respiratory tract and digestive system has remained an issue. Members of Congress who are addressing the issue of compensation for people with asbestos-related diseases sought a more definitive assessment.
Based on a review of 18 case-control, 35 epidemiologic, and a number of animal studies, an IOM panel decided that the consistency of the epidemiologic studies, as well as several biological mechanisms supporting the plausibility that asbestos could cause the cancer, outweighed the lack of confirmatory evidence from animal studies or documentation that the mineral fibers persist in the larynx. "The committee concluded that the evidence is sufficient to infer a causal relationship between asbestos exposure and laryngeal cancer," according to the report, Asbestos: Selected Cancers.