Saturday, August 14, 2004

Look at asbestos as lung cancer cause

Your voice: Frank Miller

Recent research at the University of Cincinnati that identified genes that may be related to lung cancer is exciting. Based on these studies, we may expect that some new forms of therapy for lung cancer will be developed sooner rather than later.

Perhaps these studies will also be significant in the search for causes of lung cancer. For many years now, it has been a given that smoking causes lung cancer. However, most smokers do not get lung cancer. And then there's that EPA report in 1993 that claimed that indirect tobacco smoke (secondhand smoke) causes lung cancer. This report was struck down by a federal district judge, who cited the inadequate science and failure to demonstrate a statistically significant relationship between secondhand smoke and lung cancer - making inappropriate conclusions from bad science. Also, lung cancer rates have not decreased appreciably in recent years, even though the smoking rate has decreased markedly.

All of these facts, taken together, suggest that smoking and tobacco smoke may only be one contributor to the development of lung cancer.

I would like to cast my vote for asbestos as a potentially causative factor in the development of lung cancer. It is already known unequivocally that long-term exposure to asbestos causes asbestosis, a debilitating lung disorder. Although such exposures have been all but eliminated in our society, there is still a considerable amount of asbestos released into our atmosphere by automobile brake linings. I don't know the exact amount of such asbestos, but it should be addressed in a scientific manner. And the effect of long-term exposure to these asbestos particles should be evaluated in the laboratory.

As noted above, even though cigarette smoking has decreased drastically in recent times, lung cancer rates have not. Perhaps the tremendous increase in automobile numbers and use in recent years has caused toxic amounts of asbestos particles to be released into our atmosphere at a high rate. Such an effect could easily explain why lung cancer rates have not decreased.

I nominate asbestos as a causative factor in lung cancer, and hope someone will address this soon.


Mason resident Frank Miller, who received his doctorate in pharmacology from Indiana University, did about 25 years of drug research with several pharmaceutical firms.

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