Mesothelioma - Rare cancer in central Turkey wipes out half of three villages

November 6th, 2010 - 12:41 am ICT by BNO News  

ISTANBUL, TURKEY (BNO NEWS) — Half of the deaths in a small Turkish village located in its central region have been caused by a rare type of cancer, mesothelioma, local officials said Friday.

Turkey’s Cappadocia region, located for the most part within Nevsehir Province, includes Tuzkoy village, which is home to a mineral that is found in abundance in the area that causes the rare cancer. As a result, it has killed half the people in Tuzkoy and two surrounding villages.

Murat Tuncer, from the Health Ministry’s department that fights cancer, said the number of cases of mesothelioma cancer in Tuzkoy has been about 600 to 800 times higher than world standards.

Several hundred villagers have been diagnosed with this cancer since 1980 when the information about this cancer was confirmed by authorities. According to reports, 48 percent of all death in the three villages have been caused by mesothelioma.

According to medical experts, cancer victims have inhaled fibers of the mineral erionite in stones and paints used for building homes. The mineral is found in volcanic rocks classified as Group 1 carcinogen by the International Agency on Cancer Research.

Mayor Umit Balak said authorities plan on demolishing the village, bury it with earth and plant over it as local officials have been alarmed by the disease, prompting a relocation of the residents. However, a final decision has not been made.

Tuzkoy, with a total population of 2,350, was declared a hazardous zone in 2004 and around 250 families moved a 1.5 kilometers (1 mile) away, to new housing. The rest are expected to move when additional homes are ready, in a project subsidized by the state

The region is touristically known for its picturesque pillars, which were carved into houses, churches, and monasteries, formed millions of years ago by ancient volcanoes. The Göreme Open Air Museum is one of the most visited sites in the area, and includes 30 rock-carved churches and chapels hundreds of years old.

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