Establishing a Methodology for the Detection of Silica Particles in Lung Cancer Tissue Using Computer-Controlled Scanning Electron Microscopy

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Project Period: 
Project Investigator(s): 
K. Coleman, R.W. Field, Department of Occupational and Environmental Health, University of Iowa

Crystalline silica has long been recognized as an occupational hazard of the dusty trades with exposures resulting in silicosis. As recently as 1997, IARC categorized the respirable portion of crystalline silica as a Grade 1 human carcinogen indicating that silica may be implicated in the development of lung cancer. Evidence in the literature indicates that silica may be not only an occupational hazard, but an environmental hazard as well, with patients with no known exposure showing measurable quantities of silica within cancerous tissue samples. The primary goal of this study is to establish a methodology using Computer-Controlled Scanning Electron Microscopy to examine silica content in lung cancer tissue. Demonstrating that silica is not evenly distributed within the tissue will establish the need to use automated full scanning techniques, such as CCSEM, to guarantee that the analysis is not subject to random sampling error or researcher error, which may be rendering the traditional random sampling of zones for analysis under-representative of silica concentration in the tissue.