Smokers with a history of asbestos exposure have an increased chance to develop lung cancer if they have a lung condition known as asbestosis, a recent study says.
However, giving up smoking following long-term exposure to asbestos can significantly decrease the chance of developing asbestos-related cancer, according to the study.
“The interaction between smoking, asbestos exposure and asbestosis and their effect on risk of lung cancer are partly understood,” said Dr. S Markowitz, the professor of occupational & environmental medicine with the Earth and Environmental Sciences School at Queens College, NY City, said during a press release.
The study has been published online on 12th April in the American Journal of Respiratory & Critical Care Medicine. For the research, scientists went through the medical records of nearly 2000 asbestos workers and approximately 54000 other workers without any history of asbestos exposure.
“We discovered that all the individual risk factors were linked to the increased chance to develop lung cancer. However, combination of the 2 risk factors poses an extra risk and the blend of all the three factors could increase the risk by 37 times,” Markowitz said.
Nonsmokers with a history of exposure to asbestos had death rates more than 5 times when compared with the individuals in the other group. When asbestos exposure combines with smoking, lung cancer death rate is 28 times more, according to the researchers.
Asbestosis – a scarring of lungs resulted by the breathing of fibres of asbestos – increases the risk, the researchers say. According to the study, the lung cancer death rates are 37 times more for smokers who have asbestosis.
However, lung cancer death rates could be reduced significantly if asbestos workers stop smoking. In the initial decade after giving up, lung cancer death rates reduced from 177 per 10000 to 90 per 10000 among those who quit smoking.
“The study provides clear evidence that exposure to asbestos can cause lung cancer through various mechanisms. The important thing is that we also found that giving up smoking significantly reduces the risk of contracting lung cancer,” Markowitz said.
The authors of the study informed that their discoveries were incomplete by the reality that the smoking status of men and their asbestosis were evaluated just once and that a few of the workers in the control group (group of workers without asbestos exposure) also could’ve had some unknown asbestos exposure.