A prospective mortality study of 839 men employed in the manufacture of asbestos cement products in 1969 examined lung cancer risk in relation to lung fibrosis seen on chest x ray film, controlling for age, smoking, and exposure to asbestos. Twenty or more years after hire, no excess of lung cancer was found among workers without radiographically detectable lung fibrosis, even among long term workers (greater than or equal to 21.5 years); nor was there a trend in risk by level of cumulative exposure to asbestos among such workers. By contrast, employees with small opacities (greater than or equal to 1/0; ILO classification) experienced a significantly raised risk of lung cancer (nine observed deaths v 2.1 expected), even though their exposures to asbestos were similar to the exposures of long term workers without opacities. In this population, excess risk of lung cancer was restricted to workers with x ray film evidence of asbestosis, a finding consistent with the view that asbestos is a lung carcinogen because of its fibrogenicity.
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