Occupational asbestos exposure among respiratory cancer patients in Lithuania

American Journal of Industrial Medicine. 2007 Jun;50(6):455-63. [Link]

Everatt RP, Smolianskiene G, Tossavainen A, Cicenas S, Jankauskas R.

Centre of Occupational Medicine, Institute of Hygiene, Vilnius, Lithuania, Finland. ruta@dmc.lt


Background: Despite intensive use of asbestos, no cancer case has ever been diagnosed as asbestos related in Lithuania. This paper attempts to estimate the proportion of those occupationally exposed to asbestos among respiratory cancer patients.

Material and Methods: Occupational exposure to asbestos was assessed retrospectively for 298 lung cancer and four mesothelioma patients, admitted to the Institute of Oncology, Vilnius. The evaluation was based on personal interview data using an internationally established questionnaire covering most likely activities of asbestos exposure at the workplace. Cumulative exposure to asbestos at work was estimated in fiber years. Lung tissue asbestos fiber burden analysis was conducted by scanning transmission electron microscopy on 23 samples.

Results: A cumulative asbestos exposure of > or =25 fiber years was found for 10 lung cancer patients (3.4%). They worked in foundries, construction, installation, shipyard, power plant, railway, asbestos cement, glass and chemical industry. In a further 56 lung cancer patients (18.8%) and for one (25%) mesothelioma patient, a cumulative exposure from 5 to 24.9 fiber years was assessed. Asbestos fibers were detected in 18 cases, the burden ranged from 0.1 to 4.1 million fibers/g dry lung tissue; concentrations exceeding 1 million f/g dry lung tissue were found in four cases. All fibers were chrysotile.

Conclusions: Findings indicate that a fraction (3.4%) of the lung cancer cases could be attributed to heavy occupational exposure to asbestos using the Helsinki criterion of > or =25 fiber years. Therefore, approximately 50 lung cancer cases per year in Lithuania could be asbestos-related compensable occupational diseases.