Asbestos Exposure Linked to Cancer of the Voice Box or Larynx

Smoking And Asbestos Exposure Combine for High Larynx Cancer Risks

WASHINGTON, DC - June 23, 2006 - Asbestos exposure can cause cancer of the voice box or larynx, according to a report by the federal Institute of Medicine (IOM). After reviewing population and case studies, the IOM found "sufficient evidence" to establish this link, and to show that the higher the dose of asbestos received, the greater the chance of contracting laryngeal cancer.

Thirty-five population studies from 29 published papers examined the relative risk of developing laryngeal cancer among people with on-the-job asbestos exposure compared with people without such exposure. The asbestos-exposed subjects were drawn from many industries, including mining, textiles and insulation. The researchers considered the duration of employment, cumulative exposure, and peak exposure levels.

The most highly asbestos-exposed groups were 2.57 times more likely to develop laryngeal cancer than unexposed groups. The overall relative risk among asbestos-exposed groups was 1.40 times that of unexposed groups. The results suggested a relationship between the dose of asbestos received and laryngeal cancer risk.

The IOM also looked at 18 case-control studies, ranging from those with 10 participants to those with 958 participants. Once again, the risk of laryngeal cancer increased with asbestos exposure. Also, the risk was related to the intensity and duration of the contact with asbestos.

How Asbestos Fibers May Affect the Larynx

We already know that asbestos exposure can lead to lung cancer and to pleural mesothelioma, a serious, aggressive cancer that begins in the membranes surrounding the lungs. The IOM researchers pointed out that the larynx, like the lung, is anatomically in the direct path of inhaled asbestos fibers. Damage to the vocal folds could disrupt airflow and encourage the deposit of asbestos fibers in the larynx. Also, tumors in the thin, flat cells (squamous cells) lining the larynx have structural and clinical similarities to lung tumors, according to the IOM report.

Smoking, Alcohol and Asbestos: Three Factors Increasing Laryngeal Cancer Risk

Smoking and heavy alcohol use are major causes of cancer of the larynx. The independent effect of tobacco on laryngeal cancer is greater than that of alcohol consumption alone. Taken together, drinking alcoholic beverages and smoking pose a greater laryngeal cancer risk than just adding up the risks posed by each activity.

The case-control studies reviewed by the IOM were often adjusted for tobacco and alcohol use. Several of these studies also looked at subgroups that included smokers who were exposed to asbestos and smokers who were not exposed to asbestos. The asbestos-exposed group of smokers had a higher risk of developing laryngeal cancer. The IOM researchers suggested that the accumulation of asbestos fibers, together with smoking or drinking could produce chronic irritation or inflammation of the larynx and accelerate the development of abnormal cell growth leading to cancer.

Your Asbestos Case

For more information about laryngeal cancer, see resources by the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute. These pages contain additional information about the symptoms of laryngeal cancer and its diagnosis and treatment.

Please contact our asbestos cancer attorneys if you would like information about asbestos-related cancer and your legal rights. We have been successfully handling asbestos litigation since 1984. We will review your potential case free of charge and advise you of your legal choices.