Carcinogenic Potential of Silica Compounds

  • Irving J. Selikoff
Part of the Nobel Foundation Symposia book series (NOFS, volume 40)

Summary and Conclusions

  1. 1.

    Silicate fibers have been shown to produce cancer in man and animals. Cancer of the lung, pleura and peritoneum (mesothelioma), gastro-intestinal system and several other sites may frequently occur. This is now identified as an important pUblic health problem.

  2. 2.

    A variety of such fibers of different chemical and crystallographic structure are active: chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, anthophyllite, tremolite. These have a number of trace element contaminants.

  3. 3.

    The mass of dust needed to produce disease is small (often less than 0.25–0.50 g in the lungs, in extensive asbestosis), although the number of particles and their surface area are very large. The amount of fibrous silicate dust exposure needed to produce cancer is as little as may occur in the households of asbestos workers or in neighborhoods about asbestos factories.

  4. 4.

    Not all tissues respond to the presence of these fibers with cancer; they may be found in some organs without increased cancer risk. At present the reasons for differences among tissues are not known.

  5. 5.

    Silica (quartz) does not reproduce these carcinogenic effects. Among silica exposed individuals, we have found no mesothelioma, nor increase in gastro-intestinal cancer.

  6. 6.

    While we have found, as expected, ample evidence of pulmonary fibrosis (silicosis), comparable with the extent of fibrosis with asbestos (asbestosis), there was a far smaller increase of lung cancer. There was thus a dissociation between fibrogenic and carcinogenic potentials of silica and asbestiform fibrous silicates. Further, silicotic fibrosis was associated with tendency to concomitant tuberculosis. This was not seen with asbestosis.

  7. 7.

    An influence of shape and size of the particles is currently being considered, on the basis of experimental studies. Appropriate human data are presently not available on this aspect of the problem.



Lung Cancer Pulmonary Tuberculosis Lung Cancer Risk Carcinogenic Potential Asbestos Exposure 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Policard, A, J Clin Path 1962, 15, 394.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Acricola, G, De re metallica (trans, from first Latin edition 1556 by Hoover, H C & Hoover, L H). Dover Publications, New York, 1950.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Caii Plinii Secundi, Historiae, Naturalis, lib. VII, sec 1 and lib. XXXIII, sec xl.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Thackrah, C T, The effects of arts, trades and professions, 2nd edn, p 99. Baines and Newson, Leeds, 1832.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Collis, E L, Public Health 1915, 28, 252, 292; and 29, 11, 37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Lynch, K M & Smith, W A, Am J Cancer 1935, 24, 56.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Gloyne, S R, Tubercle 1935, 17, 5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Selikoff, I J, Churg, J & Hammond, E C, Ann NY Acad Sci 1965, 132, 139.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Selikoff, I J, Ann NY Acad Sci 1965, 132, 351.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Doll, R, Brit J Industr Med 1955, 12, 81.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Selikoff, I J, Rev fr Mai Resp 1976, 4, 7.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Selikoff, I J & Hammond, E C, Environmental cancer in the year 2000, in Proc. 7th National Cancer Conf, pp 687–696. Los Angeles, 1973.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Weiss, A, Medizinische 1953, p 93.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Klemperer, P & Rabin, C B, Arch Path 1931, 11, 385.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Hochberg, L A, Am Rev Tuberc 1951, 63, 150.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Wagner, J C, Sleggs, C A & Marchand, P, Brit J Ind Med 1960, 17, 260.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Selikoff, I J, Churg, J & Hammond, E C, New Eng J Med 1965, 272, 560.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Wagner, J C, Berry, G, Skidmore, J W & Timbrel J, Brit J Cane 1974, 29, 252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Fondimare, A, Desbordes, J & Perrotey, J, Quest Med 1976, 29, 593.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Leichner, F, Arch Gewerbepath 1954, 13, 382.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Enticknap, J B & Smither, W J, Brit J Ind Med 1964, 21, 20.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Newhouse, M L & Berry, G, Brit J Ind Med 1976, 33, 1947.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Pott, F & Friedricks, K H, Naturwiss 1972, 2, 318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Selikoff, I J, Churg, J & Hammond, E C, J Am Med Ass 1964, 188, 22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Elmes, P C & Simpson, Marion J C, Brit J Ind Med 1971, 28, 226.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Selikoff, I J, Hammond, E C & Seidman, H, in Biological Effects of Asbestos (ed P Bogovski et al.) pp 209–216. IARC Sci Pub No 8, Lyon, France, 1973.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Bowes, D R & Langer A M, Krysta1inikum 1974, 19, 39.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Stanton, M F, Layard, M, Tegeris, A, Miller, E, May, M S Kent, E, J Nat Cancer Inst 1977, 58, 587.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Thomson, J G, Kaschula, R O C S MacDonald, R R, South African Med J 1963, 27, 77.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Langer, A M, Selikoff, I J & Sastre, A, Arch Env Health 1971, 22, 348.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Selikoff, I J & Hammond, E C, Am J Pub Health 1968, 58, 1958.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Kiviluoto, R, Acta radiol (Suppl) 1960, 194.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Newhouse, M L S Thompson, H, Brit J Ind Med 1965, 22, 261.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Anderson, H A, Lilis, R, Daum, S M, Fischbein, S A & Selikoff, I J, Ann NY Acad Sci 1976, 271, 116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    McEwen, J, Finlayson, A, Mair, A S Gibson, A M M, Int Arch Arbeitsmed 1971, 38, 301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Greenberg, M & Davies, T A L, Brit J Ind Med 1974, 31, 91.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Yazicioglu, S, Chest 1976, 70, 43.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Harries, P G, Ann Occ Hyg 1968, 11, 135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Harries, P G, Environ Res 1976, 11, 261.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Selikoff, I J, Hammond, E C S Churg, J, J Am Med Ass 1968, 204, 106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Cook, P M, Glass, G E S Tucker, J H, Science 1974, 185, 853.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Irving J. Selikoff
    • 1
  1. 1.Mount Sinai School of MedicineCity University of New YorkNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations