Asbestos exposure and ovarian fiber burden

Debra S. Heller*, Ronald E. Gordon, Carolyn Westhoff, Susan Gerber

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Epidemiologic studies suggest increased risk of epithelial ovarian cancer in female asbestos workers and increased risk of malignancy in general in household contacts of asbestos workers. Ovaries were studied from 13 women with household contact with men with documented asbestos exposure and from 17 women undergoing incidental oophorectomy. Ovarian tissue was examined by analytic electron microscopy. Significant asbestos fiber burdens were detected in 9 out of 13 women with household asbestos exposure (69.2%), and in 6 out of 17 women who gave no exposure history (35%). Three exposed women had asbestos counts over 1 million fibers per gram wet weight (23%), but only 1/17 women without an exposure history had a count that high (6%). Although asbestos has been documented as a contaminant of some older cosmetic talc preparations, the chrysotile and crocidolite types of asbestos we detected are more indicative of background and/or occupational exposure. This study demonstrates that asbestos can reach the ovary. Although the number of subjects is small, asbestos appears to be present in ovarian tissue more frequently and in higher amounts in women with a documentable exposure history.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)435-439
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Industrial Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 1996


  • asbestos
  • environmental exposure
  • ovary
  • talc

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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