Combination Of Asbestos And Cigarettes Together With Underlying Asbestosis Significantly Increases One’s Risk Of Developing Lung Cancer Later In Life

A recently released study sought to determine the extent to which the combination of asbestos exposure and cigarette smoking serves to act “synergistically” so as to multiply the odds that one will develop lung cancer, especially when the person has already developed asbestosis.

This study is the subject of “Asbestos, Asbestosis, Smoking and Lung Cancer: New Findings from the North American Insulator Cohort”, which was published online in April 2013 by the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine medical journal

An April 12, 2013 report found at the ScienceDaily web site, “Asbestos Exposure, Asbestosis, and Smoking Combined Greatly Increase Lung Cancer Risk”, does a good job of summarizing this asbestos lung cancer study, as well as adding some commentary from the lead author.

As for the findings, from the April 2013 ScienceDaily report:

Among non-smokers, asbestos exposure increased the rate of dying from lung cancer 5.2-fold, while the combination of smoking and asbestos exposure increased the death rate more than 28-fold. Asbestosis increased the risk of developing lung cancer among asbestos-exposed subjects in both smokers and non-smokers, with the death rate from lung cancer increasing 36.8-fold among asbestos-exposed smokers with asbestosis.

Among insulators who quit smoking, lung cancer morality dropped in the 10 years following smoking cessation from 177 deaths per 10,000 among current smokers to 90 per 10,000 among those who quit. Lung cancer rates among insulators who had stopped smoking more than 30 years earlier were similar to those among insulators who had never smoked.

And here’s how the lead author described this new study’s findings, overall:

“The interactions between asbestos exposure, asbestosis and smoking, and their influence on lung cancer risk are incompletely understood,” said lead author Steven B. Markowitz, MD DrPH, professor of occupational and environmental medicine at the School of Earth & Environmental Sciences at Queens College in New York. “In our study of a large cohort of asbestos-exposed insulators and more than 50,000 non-exposed controls, we found that each individual risk factor was associated with increased risk of developing lung cancer, while the combination of two risk factors further increased the risk and the combination of all three risk factors increased the risk of developing lung cancer almost 37-fold.”

“Our study provides strong evidence that asbestos exposure causes lung cancer through multiple mechanisms,” said Dr. Markowitz. “Importantly, we also show that quitting smoking greatly reduces the increased lung cancer risk seen in this population.”

We will continue to watch the medical journals for study articles that focus on asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma.


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