Cancer mortality and incidence of mesothelioma in a cohort of wives of asbestos workers in Casale Monferrato, Italy

Environ Health Perspect. 2007 Oct;115(10):1401-5. doi: 10.1289/ehp.10195.


Background: Family members of asbestos workers are at increased risk of malignant mesothelioma (MM). Although the hazard is established, the magnitude of the risk is uncertain, and it is unclear whether risk is also increased for other cancers. Few cohort studies have been reported.

Objective: The "Eternit" factory of Casale Monferrato (Italy), active from 1907 to 1986, was among the most important Italian plants producing asbestos-cement (AC) goods. In this article we present updated results on mortality and MM incidence in the wives of workers at the factory.

Methods: We studied a cohort of 1,780 women, each married to an AC worker during his employment at the factory but not personally occupationally exposed to asbestos. Cohort membership was defined starting from the marital status of each worker, which was ascertained in 1988 from the Registrar's Office in the town where workers lived. At the end of follow-up (April 2003), 67% of women were alive, 32.3% dead, and 0.7% lost to follow-up. Duration of exposure was computed from the husband's period of employment. Latency was the interval from first exposure to the end of follow-up.

Results: The standardized mortality ratio (SMR) for pleural cancer [21 observed vs. 1.2 expected; SMR = 18.00; 95% confidence interval (CI), 11.14-27.52] was significantly increased. Mortality for lung cancer was not increased (12 observed vs. 10.3 expected; SMR = 1.17; 95% CI, 0.60-2.04). Eleven incident cases of pleural MM were observed (standardized incidence ratio = 25.19; 95% CI, 12.57-45.07).

Conclusions: Household exposure, as experienced by these AC workers' wives, increases risk for pleural MM but not for lung cancer.

Keywords: asbestos; domestic exposure; epidemiology; mesothelioma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Asbestos / adverse effects*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Lung Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Mesothelioma / mortality*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pleural Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spouses


  • Asbestos