Pilot study for the project "Ovarian cancer and asbestos exposure (ORKAN)"

Project No. FF-FB 0257


completed 12/2018


There is strong evidence for a causal association between occupational exposure to asbestos and risk of ovarian cancer. However, many of the studies so far suffer from limitations such as poor histological validation or low numbers of participants. To refine the German occupational disease legislation, a precise estimation of the dose-response relationship is desirable. Hence, the present pilot study aimed at testing the feasibility of a large-scale epidemiologic study to investigate the quantitative association between occupational exposure to asbestos and ovarian cancer.


Between December 2017 and April 2018, 1.000 insurees registered at Gesundheitsvorsorge (GVS) c/o German Social Accident Insurance Institution for the energy, textile, electrical and media products sectors (BG ETEM) were invited for participation in the study. Invited women who agreed to participate in the study were then interviewed via telephone using the questionnaire that is also planned to be employed within the main study. The feasibility of the project was evaluated using specific, a priori defined criteria. Those criteria were the response, the presumable number for cases, the possibility of detailed calculation of fibre-years by means of the information collected via the study, and the availability of relevant medical documents (records form imaging procedures, medical reports, and histologic materials).


With 17%, the response was clearly below the intended number of 60%. We observed six suspected cases of ovarian cancer, of which two diagnoses could be confirmed by the available medical documents. Hence, the number of cases was within the expected range. Professional calculation of fibre-years could be performed for 29% of the interviewees, but only for one suspected case. Medical documents could be collected for only very few participants. Thus, only the feasibility criterion with respect to the expected number of cases was fulfilled.

The results of the pilot study indicate that the planned project is feasible only to a very limited extent. For further planning of the study, measures to clearly improve recruitment of participants are necessary.

Last Update:

15 Jul 2021


Financed by:
  • Deutsche Gesetzliche Unfallversicherung e. V. (DGUV)
Research institution(s):
  • Universität München

-cross sectoral-

Type of hazard:

dangerous substances


carcinogenic substances, gender-specific risks

Description, key words:

Ovarian Cancer, asbestos exposure

Further information

Nowak, D.; Schmalfeldt, B.; Tannapfel, A.; Mahner, S.:
Asbestos Exposure and Ovarian Cancer - a Gynaecological Occupational Disease. Background, Mandatory Notification, Practical Approach. Geburtshilfe Frauenheilkd. 81 Nr. 5 (2021), S. 555-561.
Article in the PubMed Central® archive