Lung Cancer: Combination of Asbestos & Smoking Amplifies Risk

Asbestosis (Photo credit: Pulmonary Pathology)

Smoking remains the leading cause of lung cancer. It is followed by radon exposure, and asbestos exposure. Now we have more data showing a stunning increase in the risk of lung cancer when smoking is combined with asbestosis exposure. Still, quitting smoking can significantly reduce the risk for developing lung cancer after long-term asbestosis exposure.

The study: Researchers examined long-term North American insulators (N=2,377) and compared them with male blue-collar workers with no history of exposure to asbestosis (N-54,243( who participated in Cancer Prevention Study II. The authors looked at age, duration of work and duration from onset of work as an insulator, smoking history, asbestosis, asbestosis-related pleural (lining of organs such as the lungs) scarring (fibrosis), and poor lung function (FEV1/FVC less than 65%).

Findings: Each individual risk factor was associated with an increased risk of developing lung cancer, while the combination of two factors further increased risk. The combination of 3 factors increased the risk of lung cancer by almost 37-fold!

My take: If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do, quit: Insulator lung mortality was reduced by half within 10 years of smoking cessation. Insulators who stopped smoking more than 30 years earlier had similar lung cancer rates as insulators who never smoked. I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

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Reference: Markowitz SB. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2013; Published online ahead of print April 13, 2013.

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Harvard AB Yale MD UPenn Radiation Oncology Radiation Oncologist, Seattle area

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