Data Gathering Phase of Iron Range Mine Mesothelioma Study Complete
Researchers at the University of Minnesota have completed the data collection portion of their $4.9 million/5 year study about respiratory diseases in taconite miners. Over 50 miners in the Minnesota Iron Range taconite mine have been found to have mesothelioma, an asbestos-related cancer. Since there is no known asbestos in the iron ore deposit, mine officials want to know whether iron ore mining can be linked to mesothelioma. To date, no studies have proven that mesothelioma can be caused by mineral particles other than asbestos.
The data collected includes air quality readings from the Iron Range towns and readings from the results of lung tests conducted on about 2,000 current and former mine workers and their spouses. The researchers are also trying to determine if those in the study have been exposed to asbestos at any other time in their lives.
“I think we’re all in this together in wanting to understand why taconite mine worker are disproportionately affected by mesothelioma,” Diana Harvey, Assistant Dean of the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota, said.
Mesothelioma is a rare, aggressive form of cancer typically affecting the lining of the lungs. Most cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed 30 years or more after exposure, complicating this study since many of the workers are not yet experiencing symptoms. Although there is no known cure for mesothelioma, it can be treated with varying degrees of success through the use of surgical procedures, chemotherapy and radiation.
The team anticipates releasing results late in 2011.