Radiographic asbestosis is not a prerequisite for asbestos-associated lung cancer in Ontario asbestos-cement workers
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In recent years, controversy has developed about whether pre-existing asbestosis is a prerequisite for the diagnosis of asbestos-related lung cancer. This paper presents the results of a prospective study, in a cohort of Ontario asbestos-cement workers, of lung cancer in relation to radiographs obtained 20 and 25 years from first exposure to asbestos. Radiographs were interpreted by a single NIOSH-certified "B" reader, and asbestosis was defined to mean an ILO code of 1/0 or greater. There were 143 subjects (123 without asbestosis, 20 with asbestosis), with a radiograph available for interpretation at 20 years from first exposure or later. The lung cancer standardized mortality ratio (SMR) among men without asbestosis at 20 years latency was 5.53 (95% CI: 2.9-9.7). There were 128 subjects (114 without asbestosis, 14 with asbestosis) with a radiograph available for interpretation at 25 years from first exposure or later. The lung cancer SMR among men without asbestosis at 25 years latency was 5.81 (95% CI 2.7-11). The results of this study are consistent with those of epidemiologic studies of asbestos-exposed populations in a variety of exposure situations. These studies have demonstrated that lung cancer risk is elevated in the presence of radiographic asbestosis, but they have also shown that lung cancer risk may be elevated in the absence of radiographic asbestosis.
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