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A mesothelioma epidemic in Cappadocia: scientific developments and unexpected social outcomes

Abstract

In Cappadocia, Turkey, an unprecedented mesothelioma epidemic causes 50% of all deaths in three small villages. Initially linked solely to the exposure to a fibrous mineral, erionite, recent studies by scientists from Turkey and the United States have shown that erionite causes mesothelioma mostly in families that are genetically predisposed to mineral fibre carcinogenesis. This manuscript reports, through the eyes of one of the researchers, the resulting scientific advances that have come from these studies and the social improvements that were brought about by both the scientists and members of the Turkish Government.

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Figure 1: Erionite and the village of Karain.
Figure 2: Our office in Sarihidir.
Figure 3: Family 1.
Figure 4: The new village of Tuzkoy.

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Acknowledgements

We are grateful to H. Akay (deceased), a surgeon at Ankara University, for helping us to provide free surgical care to many patients with mesothelioma; to M. Tunc of Tuzkoy, I. Duru of Karain, and Y. Ozdogan of Sarihidir for their help in preparing family pedigrees in these villages; to A. Elmishad and A. Pannuti for helping us to organize the family pedigrees; to M. Rdzanek, B. Krocznyska and H. Yang for performing serological tests at the Hacettepe University in Ankara; to M. Dogan for assisting A.U.D. in the mineralogical studies; and to I. Roushdy-Hammady for contributing to the initial pedigrees. The research project in Cappadocia has been and is funded by grants to M.C. from the US National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, the Cancer Research Foundation of America, the Riviera Country Club of Illinois, the Association for Research on Asbestos, Mesothelioma and Cancer of Illinois, and the Mark Butitta Mesothelioma Foundation. The results and social issues are reported as M.C. saw them developing. Although the co-authors did not directly participate in the writing of this paper, they had a vital role in producing the data and reviewing the accuracy of this manuscript.

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Carbone, M., Emri, S., Dogan, A. et al. A mesothelioma epidemic in Cappadocia: scientific developments and unexpected social outcomes. Nat Rev Cancer 7, 147–154 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrc2068

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