Understanding, Managing, and Living with the

Health Effects of Asbestos

Asbestosis Linked to Lung Cancer in Study

June 10, 2013

Queens, NY A new study suggests a link between asbestosis and lung cancer. The study, published earlier this year, examined the link between smoking, asbestos, asbestosis and lung cancer, and suggested that asbestosis and lung cancer were linked.

The study, published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine (4/13/13), set out to determine how asbestos exposure, asbestosis and smoking interact to affect lung cancer risk. Researchers examined lung cancer mortality as reported in the National Death Index from 1981 through 2008. Included in the study were 2,377 long-term insulators and 54,243 male blue collar workers.

Researchers found that asbestos increases the risk of death from lung cancer among non-smokers, while asbestosis further increases that risk. Each of the three factors - smoking, asbestos exposure and asbestosis - was found to increase the risk of lung cancer. In non-smokers who were exposed to asbestos, the risk of dying from lung cancer increased 5.2-fold, while smokers who were exposed to asbestos had that risk increased 28-fold. When asbestos exposure, asbestosis and smoking were combined, the risk of lung cancer was greatly increased, although quitting smoking was found to reduce the risk of lung cancer, even after long-term exposure to asbestos, by half within 10 years of quitting smoking.

In a press release that accompanied the study (4/12/13), Steven B. Markowitz, said, “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.”

He went on to note that the study provides evidence that there are multiple ways in which asbestos exposure can cause lung cancer.

Asbestos exposure has been linked to multiple health problems, including asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. Asbestosis is a breathing disorder that is caused when a person inhales asbestos fibers, resulting in scarring of the lung tissue. Lawsuits have been filed against manufacturers of products that contain asbestos and employers who failed to properly protect their employees from asbestos exposure.