Asbestos a Factor in Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis Cases

A potential link between asbestos exposure and a significant proportion of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) cases was recently discovered, according to research presented at the European Respiratory Society (ERS)'s International Congress, held Sept. 6-10 in Munich, Germany.

A potential link was recently discovered between asbestos exposure and a significant proportion of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) cases, according to research presented at the European Respiratory Society (ERS)’s International Congress, held Sept. 6-10 in Munich, Germany.

Lung disease with symptoms identical to IPF asbestosis development often occurs when an individual had been subjected to asbestos for a long period of time. The only clear difference between this lung disease and IPF is the asbestosis diagnosis given when a patient explicitly knew they had encountered asbestos.

Furthermore, asbestosis patients are not currently eligible to use new IPF treatments, regardless of whether they would effectively treat their condition, an ERS statement noted.

Researchers at the Imperial College London analyzed data from the Office of National Statistics, focusing on IPF, asbestosis, and mesothelioma mortalities across England and Wales that occurred from 1974-2012. In addition, they separated the statistics based on age, sex, and region.

From this data, the investigators discovered a correlation among all 3 diseases, indicating a percentage of IPF occurrences were caused by asbestos exposure. As a result, the researchers believed if IPF patients knew of their contact with the mineral, they would actually be diagnosed with asbestosis.

“These data are consistent with the hypothesis that a proportion of IPF is due to occult asbestos exposure, probably incurred in the workplace,” the authors explained. “The high rates of IPF mortality in the North West and South East of England may be due to historically high levels of asbestos dust exposure from shipyard work.”

As such, lead researcher, Carl Reynolds, from the Imperial College London suggested, “More research is needed in this area, particularly as patients known to have asbestos exposure are not currently considered to be candidates for new treatments for IPF and this may be inappropriate.