Exposure to asbestos and the risk of gastrointestinal cancer: a reassessment

Br J Ind Med. 1988 Feb;45(2):75-82. doi: 10.1136/oem.45.2.75.


In 1964 it was first reported that asbestos workers had a higher risk of gastrointestinal cancer. This notion has persisted despite several studies that have found no increased risk. The risks of gastrointestinal cancer to workers exposed to asbestos were reassessed, based on the results of published studies on 32 independent cohorts of asbestos workers. Not all studies provided risk estimates (SMRs) for all gastrointestinal sites (ICD codes 150-159). No consistent evidence was found to indicate that exposure to asbestos increases the risk of gastrointestinal cancer. Generally, the higher SMRs came from studies conducted in the United States or Canada and might reflect factors not related to exposure to asbestos. In studies in which asbestos exposed and non-asbestos exposed workers were evaluated the SMRs were not consistently higher for the group exposed to asbestos. There was no apparent dose response relation between accumulated asbestos dose and the risk of gastrointestinal cancer. It is concluded that there is no dose response relation between exposure to asbestos and risk of gastrointestinal cancer, and asbestos workers are not at an increased risk of gastrointestinal cancer.

MeSH terms

  • Asbestos / adverse effects*
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / mortality
  • Humans
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology*
  • Occupational Diseases / mortality
  • Risk Factors


  • Asbestos