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Women and Lung Cancer Risks

  • Published: 2009-04-18 (Revised/Updated 2013-06-18) : Asbestos.Net.
  • Synopsis: In the past women have contracted mesothelioma from exposure to asbestos through contact with clothing and other accessories.

Main Document

Quote: "Malignant mesothelioma is the most hazardous form of this cancer and in most cases will cause death."

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths of women in the United States today. It was estimated that in 2005, more women died of lung cancer than breast, ovarian, and uterine cancers combined.

Lung cancer is the uncontrollable growth of abnormal cells in one or both lungs. These abnormal cells do not carry out the functions of normal cells and do not develop into healthy lung tissue. As the abnormal cells grow, they can form tumors and impede the function of the lungs, which is to provide oxygen to the body via the blood.

Causes of Lung Cancer

Smoking Cigarettes - The primary cause of lung cancer is cigarette smoking. The more cigarettes that are smoked, the higher risk the woman is at to develop lung cancer. Likewise, the younger you start, the higher the risk is for developing lung cancer, coupled with how long you have smoked for. Studies have shown that passive smoking, also known as second hand smoke, slightly increases the risk of lung disease and cancer.

Genetics - Research has shown that women who have a family history of lung cancer are at risk of developing the disease themselves, even if that individual is a non-smoker. In some families, smokers may be more likely to develop lung cancer due to inherited faulty genes. The risk of inherited lung cancer is greater for women (2.65-fold risk) than for men (1.69-fold risk).

Asbestos - Currently, asbestos is a well known hazardous carcinogen. This fiber consists of long, thin fibrous crystals and may be mixed with other substances in order to resistant heat, electricity and chemical damage. Due to these characteristics, asbestos was used in many buildings and other structures throughout the 1900s. However, it is now known that asbestos exposure may lead to various diseases, which includes mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma (mez-uh-thee-lee-O-muh) is a type of cancer that can be either malignant or benign. Malignant mesothelioma is the most hazardous form of this cancer and in most cases will cause death. This cancer affects the mesothelium, which protects the heart, stomach, lungs, and other organs by making a special fluid that allows the organs to move. Mesothelioma usually does not manifest until several decades after the exposure to asbestos, therefore making it difficult to diagnose in the early stages.

In the years past women have contracted mesothelioma from exposure to asbestos through contact with clothing and other accessories that their husbands brought home from mines, construction sights, firehouses, etc. The fibers would break lose in the air at home, and be breathed in. These days, women more often find themselves at risk of developing mesothelioma through their own efforts in the work force. Prior to the 1978, 80 percent of all buildings had some form of asbestos. Therefore the danger remains alive today and there are many occupations at risk. Such occupations may include:

Auto Mechanics
Brake Mechanics
Bulldozer Operators
Carpenters
Cement Finishers
Construction Workers
Drywall Tapers
Electricians
Foundry Workers
Inspectors
Insulators
Janitors
Mason Laborers
Merchant Marine Seamen
Millwrights
Miners
Navy Personnel
Painters
Pipe fitters and coverer's
Plasterers
Plumbers
Railroad Workers
Roofers
Shipbuilders
Welders

Double Poison: Asbestos and Smoking

On their own, both cigarette smoking and exposure to asbestos may lead to lung cancer. Smoking cigarettes could increase your risk of developing lung cancer after having an asbestos exposure. Moreover, individuals who smoke cigarettes may have a decrease in their lung function. If that individual also has an asbestos-related disease, such as mesothelioma, their lung function is further decreased. Simply put, smoking further complicates and often accelerates the devastating effect of mesothelioma. Smoking cigarettes also may increase the risk of getting mesothelioma from an asbestos exposure. If you have been exposed to asbestos or have already been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease such as mesothelioma, now may be the time to quit.

Reference: The Asbestos & Mesothelioma Cancer Resource Center at Asbestos.Net

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1 : Cancer - 50 Years On : Lung Cancer Alliance.
2 : Early Detection of Lung Cancer : University of Bonn.
3 : National Radon Action Month : Lung Cancer Alliance.
4 : Guidance for Those at Risk for Lung Cancer : Lung Cancer Alliance.
5 : Cheek Swab May Detect Lung Cancer : National Science Foundation.
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