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U of M study shows link between cancer and taconite mining

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Researchers delivered the results Friday of a five-year, $5 million study on the cancer risk associated with exposure to commercial asbestos and dust from taconite ore among Iron Range miners.

The study shows for each year a worker spent in the taconite industry, the risk of being stricken by mesothelioma increases 3 percent, the Star Tribune reports.

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer affecting the lining of the lungs.

University researchers found that 80 miners, all men, died of the rare cancer, a rate nearly three times that in the rest of the state’s population. Asbestos remains the prime suspect, but more analysis of fibers found in the mines needs to be conducted to get clearer answers.

The study that was unable to prove that exposure to the dust is the cause of mesothelioma, MPR reports.

Dr. Jeffrey Mandel, a university physician and epidemiologist who led the study, says researchers believe “there is something about working in the industry that is playing into this.”

According to the Duluth News Tribune, the research team also pointed out that even with an increased risk, mesothelioma is still a rare disease, and the chances of contracting it are slim.

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