Asbestos exposure, asbestosis, and smoking combined greatly increase lung cancer risk

April 12, 2013

The chances of developing lung cancer associated with asbestos exposure, asbestosis and smoking are dramatically increased when these three risk factors are combined, and quitting smoking significantly reduces the risk of developing lung cancer after long-term asbestos exposure, according to a new study.

"The interactions between , and smoking, and their influence on risk are incompletely understood," said lead author Steven B. Markowitz, MD DrPH, professor of occupational and environmental 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 further increased the risk and the combination of all three risk factors increased the risk of developing lung cancer almost 37-fold."

The findings were published online ahead of print publication in the American Thoracic Society's American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

The study included 2,377 long-term North American insulators and 54,243 male blue collar workers with no history of exposure to asbestos from the Cancer Prevention Study II. Causes of death were determined from the National Death Index.

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.

There were a few limitations to the study, including the fact that status and asbestosis were evaluated only once and that some members of the control group could have been exposed to relatively brief periods of asbestos.

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

Explore further: Asbestos workers at significantly increased risk of heart disease/strokes

Related Stories

Asbestos workers at significantly increased risk of heart disease/strokes

April 2, 2012
Workers exposed to asbestos as part of their job are at significantly greater risk of heart disease and stroke than the general population, finds research published online in Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Latest research confirms genetic susceptibility to lung cancer

April 15, 2012
Previous research has shown that Asian patients with lung cancer are more likely to harbor epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutations. Furthermore, Asian patients with lung cancer are more likely to be non-smokers ...

Early morning smokers have increased risk of lung and head and neck cancers

August 8, 2011
Two new studies have found that smokers who tend to take their first cigarette soon after they wake up in the morning may have a higher risk of developing lung and head and neck cancers than smokers who refrain from lighting ...

Deaths and major morbidity from asbestos-related diseases in Asia likely to surge in next 20 years

June 9, 2011
An alarming new article in Respirology issues a serious warning of massive rises in deaths from asbestos-related lung diseases in Asia. Dr Ken Takahashi, Acting Director of the WHO Collaborating Center for Occupational Health, ...

Expert: Cancer rates show it's time for a global asbestos ban

August 19, 2011
The use of asbestos building materials in developing countries results in millions of preventable cancer cases, a University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health epidemiologist reports in the coming issue of ...

Recommended for you

No dye: Cancer patients' gray hair darkened on immune drugs

July 21, 2017
Cancer patients' gray hair unexpectedly turned youthfully dark while taking novel drugs, and it has doctors scratching their heads.

Shooting the achilles heel of nervous system cancers

July 20, 2017
Virtually all cancer treatments used today also damage normal cells, causing the toxic side effects associated with cancer treatment. A cooperative research team led by researchers at Dartmouth's Norris Cotton Cancer Center ...

Molecular changes with age in normal breast tissue are linked to cancer-related changes

July 20, 2017
Several known factors are associated with a higher risk of breast cancer including increasing age, being overweight after menopause, alcohol intake, and family history. However, the underlying biologic mechanisms through ...

Immune-cell numbers predict response to combination immunotherapy in melanoma

July 20, 2017
Whether a melanoma patient will better respond to a single immunotherapy drug or two in combination depends on the abundance of certain white blood cells within their tumors, according to a new study conducted by UC San Francisco ...

Discovery could lead to better results for patients undergoing radiation

July 19, 2017
More than half of cancer patients undergo radiotherapy, in which high doses of radiation are aimed at diseased tissue to kill cancer cells. But due to a phenomenon known as radiation-induced bystander effect (RIBE), in which ...

Definitive genomic study reveals alterations driving most medulloblastoma brain tumors

July 19, 2017
The most comprehensive analysis yet of medulloblastoma has identified genomic changes responsible for more than 75 percent of the brain tumors, including two new suspected cancer genes that were found exclusively in the least ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.