Study Suggests Dental Lab Techs Have Increased Mesothelioma Risk

May 30, 2017
Sarah Handzel, BSN, RN

A 14-year study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine shows how dental lab technicians in the U.S. may be at risk for developing mesothelioma. The Italian study identified four patients who developed mesothelioma after working in dental laboratories. Researchers hypothesized that the technicians were exposed to asbestos contained in casting rings.

Asbestos was used in some casting rings, which are used to manufacture dental prostheses.

A new report published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine details a 14-year study that identifies four dental laboratory technicians who developed mesothelioma, a cancer related to asbestos exposure, because of their work. The study was conducted in Italy, but it raises concerns about exposure to carcinogens in dental workplaces in the U.S. as well.

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While the popularity of asbestos as an ingredient in many building and manufacturing products reached its height almost 40 years ago, the material has been known to be used as a heat-resistant lining material in certain casting rings used to manufacture dental prostheses. For this study, the authors reviewed 5,344 patient records involving pleural mesothelioma and identified four cases that occurred between 2000 and 2014.

Three of the patients, all men, worked as dental laboratory technicians and were exposed to asbestos for 10, 34, and 4 years, respectively. The fourth case occurred in a female patient, who assisted her husband in manufacturing dental prostheses for a total of 30 years. It is hypothesized that the laboratory technicians were exposed to asbestos through the inhalation of microscopic fibers released from certain casting rings, leading to the development of mesothelioma in their lung tissue.

Mesothelioma typically develops between 20 — 40 years after a person’s exposure to asbestos. Around 3,000 new cases are diagnosed in the U.S. every year, more commonly in older adults than in younger people. On average, only 5 — 10 percent of patients survive five years after diagnosis. This is due, in part, to a lack of early screening tests for this specific type of cancer, and because it is uncommon — many doctors have little to no prior experience in diagnosing mesothelioma patients.

Alex Strauss, managing editor of Surviving Mesothelioma, says, “Dental technician is not one of the professions we typically associate with asbestos exposure or mesothelioma but this study is an important reminder that mesothelioma risk can sometimes be found in unexpected places.”

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