Asbestos is a group of natural minerals made of long, thin fibers. It’s been used by humans for more than
In the late twentieth century, mounting evidence began to show that breathing in asbestos dust could cause lung damage. It’s thought that after many years of asbestos exposure, chronic inflammation in your lungs can lead to cellular damage. This damage may increase your risk for developing lung cancer and other lung issues.
Today, there are strict laws about how asbestos can be used in the United States. However, asbestos still exists in many older buildings built before the 1970s.
Let’s take a deeper look into the connection between asbestos and lung cancer.
The link between asbestos exposure and lung cancer is
Researchers have performed two types of studies to try to understand the effects of asbestos on the body:
- They’ve examined groups of people who have been exposed to asbestos repeatedly over many years and compared their rates of lung cancer to rates in the general population.
- They’ve exposed animals or individual cells to large doses of asbestos in a lab to see whether it stimulates cancer growth.
Both types of research have found evidence that asbestos exposure can increase your chances of developing cancer.
Researchers have suspected that asbestos exposure may increase your chances of developing lung cancer since the
In the 1990s, a
Asbestos exposure and smoking tobacco together
Asbestos exposure and smoking tobacco may put you at a significantly higher risk for developing cancer than either risk factor alone.
The researchers found the following:
- People who smoked were 10 times more likely to develop cancer than nonsmokers.
- People exposed to asbestos were five times more likely to develop cancer than people not exposed.
- People who were exposed to asbestos and smoked were 50 times more likely to develop cancer than people not exposed to either risk factor.
Rodent studies have also found that asbestos exposure increases the risk of developing lung cancer. All six types of asbestos have led to the development of tumors in animals.
It’s thought that types of asbestos with smaller and straighter fibers increase your risk the most because they’re most likely to reach the deep parts of your lungs.
Although asbestos exposure increases your risk for developing lung cancer,
Small and non-small cell lung cancers
Lung cancers can be divided into two main categories, depending on how they look under a microscope:
Non-small cell lung cancer is the most common type and can be further divided into subcategories:
The researchers found that 45.9 percent of the men developed adenocarcinoma. The next most common type of lung cancer was squamous cell carcinoma, which applied to 38.4 percent of the men.
Asbestos exposure is the
A number of risk factors seem to affect your chances for developing asbestos-related lung cancer. These risk factors include:
- how much asbestos you’re exposed to
- how long you’re exposed to it
- the type of asbestos you’re exposed to
- the source of the exposure
- your genetics
- whether you smoke or have pre-existing lung disease
Early symptoms of lung cancer may include:
- a lingering or worsening cough
- coughing up phlegm
- chest pain that gets worse when you breathe deeply
- loss of appetite
- recurring respiratory infections
- shortness of breath
- unintended weight loss
To diagnose lung cancer, your doctor will likely start by taking your medical history and performing a physical examination. During the physical examination, the doctor will check your vitals and listen to your breathing.
If they find anything concerning, they may send you for other tests, such as:
- CT scan. A CT scan is a type of X-ray that can provide a detailed image of your lungs.
- Bronchoscopy. During a bronchoscopy, a doctor inserts a thin tube with a light through your nose or mouth and into your lungs to view your airways.
- Sputum cytology. This test involves coughing up phlegm for lab analysis.
- Lung biopsy. During a lung biopsy, a doctor will take a small tissue sample of your lung to be analyzed in a lab for signs of cancer.
The right treatment for lung cancer depends on how far along it’s progressed. Some of the most common options include:
- Surgery. Lung cancer surgery removes the part of your lung with cancer.
- Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is a drug therapy that destroys rapidly growing cancer cells.
- Radiation therapy. Radiation therapy uses concentrated beams of radiation to destroy cancer cells.
- Targeted therapy. Targeted therapy is a drug treatment that aims to destroy genes and proteins that help cancer cells grow.
- Immunotherapy. Immunotherapy is a drug therapy that aims to boost your immune system’s ability to target and fight off cancer cells.
The earlier you catch lung cancer, the better.
The 5-year survival rate of lung cancer is about
A healthcare professional can help you find out how far along your cancer has progressed and recommend the best treatment for you.
Asbestos exposure is associated with an increased risk of developing lung cancer and a rare form of cancer called mesothelioma.
Researchers are still trying to understand how much asbestos exposure will increase your risk for developing lung cancer. Evidence suggests that the longer and the more asbestos you’re exposed to, the higher your risk.
If you’ve noticed any of the early warning signs of lung cancer and you’ve been exposed to asbestos, it’s important to see a healthcare professional as soon as possible.