Asbestos.com is the nation’s most trusted mesothelioma resource
The Mesothelioma Center at Asbestos.com has provided patients and their loved ones the most updated and reliable information on mesothelioma and asbestos exposure since 2006.
Our team of Patient Advocates includes a medical doctor, a registered nurse, health services administrators, veterans, VA-accredited Claims Agents, an oncology patient navigator and hospice care expert. Their combined expertise means we help any mesothelioma patient or loved one through every step of their cancer journey.
More than 30 contributors, including mesothelioma doctors, survivors, health care professionals and other experts, have peer-reviewed our website and written unique research-driven articles to ensure you get the highest-quality medical and health information.
About The Mesothelioma Center at Asbestos.com
- Assisting mesothelioma patients and their loved ones since 2006.
- Helps more than 50% of mesothelioma patients diagnosed annually in the U.S.
- A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.
- 5-star reviewed mesothelioma and support organization.
"My family has only the highest compliment for the assistance and support that we received from The Mesothelioma Center. This is a staff of compassionate and knowledgeable individuals who respect what your family is experiencing and who go the extra mile to make an unfortunate diagnosis less stressful. Information and assistance were provided by The Mesothelioma Center at no cost to our family."LashawnMesothelioma patient’s daughter
What is Gastrointestinal Cancer?
Gastrointestinal cancer is the accepted term for a group of cancers that are contained within the digestive system or intestinal tract.
This includes pancreatic cancer, liver, gallbladder, colon, rectal and stomach cancer, in addition to gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST). Collectively, these cancers account for more than 286,480 new cases each year and over 147,090 deaths each year, according to data gathered in 2019.
As known risk factors for gastrointestinal cancer currently include smoking, alcohol consumption and obesity, asbestos exposure may eventually warrant the same classification. Exploring this relationship may provide researchers a better opportunity to find more effective treatment options.
Connection Between Asbestos and Gastrointestinal Cancer
Asbestos exposure has definitively been linked to asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer. Could gastrointestinal cancers eventually be considered among them? The simple answer: possibly. In a study published in 2005, a clear association was demonstrated. A group of 726 lighthouse keepers in Norway were studied for cancer risk between 1917 and 1967 and were assessed again between 1960 and 2002.
Among a subgroup of lighthouse keepers — a segment who ingested asbestos-tainted drinking water — the risk of some gastrointestinal cancers, specifically stomach cancer, was statistically elevated. Results from this study aligned with findings from similar reports.
A research study published in 2021 followed Taiwanese workers from 1980 to 2015 who had regular exposure to asbestos. The researchers found a significant increase in the rate of gastric cancers across men and women compared to the general public.
In a report published in 1985, in which researchers analyzed more than 45 studies of mortality data among asbestos-exposed workers, commonalities were found which included gastrointestinal cancers. Results from these studies showed a statistically significant elevation of esophageal, stomach and gastrointestinal tract cancers in workers who were exposed to asbestos.
However, it should be noted that some researchers remain critical of the proposed association between asbestos exposure and gastrointestinal cancers. They state that multiple studies that support the association come from one group of investigators, suggesting that more independent research is necessary.
Lack of Consensus
Critics further argue that previous republishing of a handful of reports may create the illusion of stronger associations between asbestos and gastrointestinal cancer than what really exists. Despite a lack of consensus on the data, researchers from both sides agree that cancer patients need to take immediate action upon diagnosis.
Symptoms of gastrointestinal cancers include feeling bloated after eating, indigestion, heartburn, nausea and stomach pain.
According to the National Cancer Institute, some cases of gastrointestinal cancers present no symptoms in early stages. This characteristic, similar to asbestos-connected diseases like mesothelioma and asbestosis, can delay a patient from visiting the doctor, effectively decreasing the likelihood of an early diagnosis.
For many cancers, including mesothelioma, late-stage diagnoses yield limited treatment options, negatively affecting the patient’s prognosis. Gastrointestinal cancer treatments differ based on the location of the cancer, the size of the tumor and the condition of the patient, along with varying other factors.
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