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Original research
Pleural plaques and risk of lung cancer in workers formerly occupationally exposed to asbestos: extension of follow-up


Background Occupational asbestos exposure is associated with pleural plaques (PP), a benign disease often seen as a marker of past exposure to asbestos and lung cancer. The association between these two diseases has not been formally proved, the aim of this study was to evaluate this association in the asbestos-related disease cohort (ARDCO) cohort.

Methods ARDCO is a French multicentric cohort including workers formerly occupationally exposed to asbestos from 2003 to 2005. CT scan was performed to diagnose PP with double reading and lung cancer (incidence and mortality) was followed through health insurance data and death certificates. Cox models were used to estimate the association between PP and lung cancer adjusting for occupational asbestos exposure (represented by cumulative exposure index, time since first exposure and time since last exposure) and smoking status.

Results A total of 176 cases (of 5050 subjects) and 88 deaths (of 4938 subjects) of lung cancer were recorded. Smoking status was identified as an effect modifier. Lung cancer incidence and mortality were significantly associated with PP only in non-smokers, respectively, HR=3.13 (95% CI 1.04 to 9.35) and HR=16.83 (95% CI 1.87 to 151.24) after adjustment for age, occupational asbestos exposure and smoking status.

Conclusions ARDCO study was the first to study this association considering equal asbestos exposure, and more specifically, our study is the first to test smoking as an effect modifier, so comparison with scientific literature is difficult. Our results seem to consolidate the hypothesis that PP may be an independent risk factor for lung cancer but they must be interpreted with caution.

  • asbestos
  • occupational health
  • respiratory system

Data availability statement

No data are available.

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