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What causes asbestos-related lung cancer?

Both lung cancer and mesothelioma are associated with exposure to asbestos. Cigarette smoking drastically increases the chance of developing an asbestos-related lung cancer in exposed workers. Asbestos workers who do not smoke have a fivefold greater risk of developing lung cancer than non-smokers, and those asbestos workers who smoke have a risk that is 50 to 90 times greater than non-smokers. While cigarette smoking is the number one cause of most forms of lung cancer, exposure to asbestos is a close second. Exposure to asbestos causes instant damage to the tissues of the lungs, and over time enough damaged tissue becomes a tumor. The process, called metastasis, causes cancerous cells to invade and kill cells in healthy organs, further perpetuating cell death. As the cancer spreads through blood and tissue, it can invade the body’s immune system and cause widespread havoc. Lung cancer is far more dangerous when there are no outward symptoms. As the cancer grows and continues to mutate, it begins to infect the oxygen/blood exchange which allows it to spread to other tissues in the body.

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