Asbestos Related Lung Cancer
This web site has focused on mesothelioma. Not every asbestos-related
lung cancer, however, is a mesothelioma. Other thoracic carcinomas,
such as adenocarcinoma, are also known to be caused by exposure to
The connection between asbestos exposure and lung cancer was noted
as early as 1925, and confirmed over the next 70 years by many
epidemiologic studies of asbestos-exposed workers. The four main types
of commercially used asbestos, chrysotile, amosite, anthophyllite, and
mixtures containing crocidolite, have all been associated with an
increased risk of lung cancer. About one in seven people who suffer
from asbestosis, a lung disease resulting from exposure to asbestos,
eventually develop lung cancer.
There is a relationship between cigarette smoking and asbestos
exposure in causing lung cancer. Individuals occupationally exposed to
asbestos who smoke face a much higher risk than those who do not smoke.
According to the National Cancer Institute, evidence suggests that
asbestos-exposed workers who quit smoking can reduce their risk of
developing lung cancer by 50% within five years of quitting.
Relationships Between Smoking and Lung
A great deal of attention has been paid to the relationship between
smoking and lung cancer. Indeed, many people presume a causal
relationship. It is therefore important to understand that while
smoking is certainly a potential cause of lung cancer, it is not the
sole cause of lung cancer in humans. Statistics have shown that
cigarette smoking alone increases the risk of lung cancer by a factor
of 10 or so; heavy asbestos exposure alone increases the risk of lung
cancer by a factor of 5 or so; and the combination of the two
independent carcinogens increases the risk factor by about 50 times.
Thus, you do not merely add the risks posed by asbestos to the
risks posed by cigarette smoking. The combination of asbestos and
smoking multiplies the risk by an unquantifiable, but significantly
greater, factor. This relationship is what is referred to as the "synergistic
effect" of smoking and asbestos exposure. In short, one plus one does
not equal two-it equals five or more.
What Are The Clinical Signs of Asbestos-Related
In general, the clinical features of asbestos-related lung cancer
depends upon the state of the tumor when detected. Early detection
enhances the prospect of surgical care. Symptoms can include the
- Chest pain (usually in later stage)
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest x-ray detection of new mass. A tumor may not be visible on
a chest x-ray until it is at least 1-0 cm in diameter.
- In its late stages, typical symptoms, signs and syndromes of
advanced carcinoma emerge.
Management of an asbestos-related lung cancer depends largely on
the staging of the tumor. Early diagnosis and surgical resections of
the tumor increase the survival rate. The presence of severe
associated asbestosis, however, can affect surgical intervention.
Additionally, radiation and chemotherapy may be helpful in the overall
Where Do I Go From Here?
After diagnosis, it is important to understand your treatment
options. Your doctor or oncologist will provide you with information
on the treatments that are available to you.
It is also important to know about your legal rights. If you have
mesothelioma, or any other asbestos-related disease, you were most
likely exposed to asbestos. Many of the manufacturers of asbestos
insulation products knew for decades that asbestos was hazardous, yet
made a business decision not to warn people of those hazards. As a
result, you may have a right of recovery against those manufacturers,
which can help defray the costs of treatment and provide compensation
for your pain and suffering.