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Smoking, asbestos exposure and asbestosis cause large increase in lung cancer risk

Cancer is always a worry, no matter how the diagnosis is delivered. From the smallest, most easily treated skin cancer to deadly mesothelioma caused by asbestos exposure, no one wants to hear their doctor utter those three words, "You have cancer."

Lung cancer caused by exposure to cigarette smoke has been long recognized. The first Surgeon General warning on the risk of lung cancer due to cigarette smoking appeared in January of 1964. It should come with little surprise that smoking, asbestos exposure and asbestosis combine to greatly increase the likelihood of lung cancer.

A study released in American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine has found that while individually each risk factor of cigarette smoking, asbestos exposure and asbestosis increase the chances of a person developing lung cancer, the presence of all three increase the risk of lung cancer 37-fold.

According to the findings, if a worker did not smoke, exposure to asbestos increased their lung cancer risk 5.2-fold. If they also smoked, the asbestos exposure caused a 28-fold increase and if they developed asbestosis and smoked, their risk increased to the 38-fold level.

Asbestosis is a lung condition caused by exposure to asbestos fibers, which cause scaring to the lung tissue and this results in shortness of breath. Asbestosis can be mistaken for other lung problems and the shortness of breath typically becomes progressively worse.

As this study show, the lungs, once weakened by asbestos, are much more likely develop other lung diseases, like lung cancer or mesothelioma. If you worked in an industry where asbestos may have been present, and you could be at risk for asbestosis, this study clearly demonstrates you should not smoke.

Source: ScienceDaily, "Asbestos Exposure, Asbestosis, and Smoking Combined Greatly Increase Lung Cancer Risk," April 12, 2013

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