Asbestos, asbestosis, pleural plaques and lung cancer

Scand J Work Environ Health. 1997 Apr;23(2):93-103. doi: 10.5271/sjweh.186.


Inhalation of asbestos fibers increases the risk of bronchial carcinoma. It has been claimed that asbestosis is a necessary prerequisite for the malignancy, but epidemiologic studies usually do not have enough statistical strength to prove that asbestos-exposed patients without asbestosis are without risk. Several recent studies do actually indicate that there is a risk for such patients. In addition, case-referent studies of patients with lung cancer show an attributable risk for asbestos of 6% to 23%, which is much higher than the actual occurrence of asbestosis among these patients. Thus there is an increasing body of evidence that, at low exposure levels, asbestos produces a slight increase in the relative risk of lung cancer even in the absence of asbestosis. Consequently, all exposure to asbestos must be minimized.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asbestos / adverse effects*
  • Asbestosis / epidemiology*
  • Comorbidity
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Lung Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis / epidemiology
  • Radiography
  • Risk Factors


  • Asbestos