The upcoming series of blog posts we will be sharing is focused on informing and creating awareness about lung cancer. During Lung Cancer Awareness Month, it is our hope that we can alert others about the causes of this deadly disease and possibly prevent future diagnoses.
Exposure to Toxic Carcinogens Results in Lung Cancer
If toxic carcinogens, such as asbestos, tobacco smoke, radon, or others, are inhaled into the lungs, they damage the cells causing cancers to develop. Exposure to these substances, whether it is firsthand, secondhand, or even third hand, puts individuals at risk. While multiple government agencies have confirmed that tobacco smoke causes 80-90% of all lung cancer-related deaths in the general population, the number one source of occupational-caused lung cancer is asbestos.
Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that is deadly to those who are exposed to it. When the fibers are inhaled or ingested they can result in lung cancer, mesothelioma, other cancers, or other asbestos-related diseases such as asbestosis. Asbestos exposure most often occurs in individuals in certain high-risk occupations. However, similar to secondhand tobacco smoke, secondhand asbestos exposure can also cause asbestos-related diseases like lung cancer. Secondhand exposure is either as a bystander or what is referred to as take-home asbestos exposure – when someone exposed to asbestos unknowingly carries the fibers home, or elsewhere, causing exposures to anyone within proximity.
Some patients diagnosed with lung cancer were not exposed to tobacco smoke or asbestos. In these cases, the disease was typically caused by other toxic substances, such as radon, diesel exhaust, or other chemicals.
Heavy Smokers Also Exposed to Asbestos Have Exponentially Higher Risk
While smoking and asbestos exposure each on their own are known significant causes of lung cancer individually, multiple studies have shown a massive synergistic increase in lung cancer risk if the two are combined. One extensive study by Irving J. Selikoff, MD stated: “There is an extraordinary risk of developing and dying from lung cancer for asbestos workers who smoke cigarettes regularly … the combination of asbestos exposure and cigarette smoking increased the risk approximately 90 times compared with men who neither work with asbestos nor smoke!” Anyone who is (or was) a smoker and has also been exposed to asbestos should get regular screenings for lung cancer.