It has been known for some time that one specific type of Head and Neck cancer – Laryngeal cancer – can be caused by asbestos. Laryngeal cancer affects the larynx, or voice box. It can also attack the vocal cords. It is often treated with surgery to remove the voice box. This type of surgery can be disfiguring and can dramatically affect quality of life for these cancer victims. In 2006, the Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academy of Sciences, looked at a large group of medical studies on laryngeal cancer and concluded there was sufficient evidence to suggest that asbestos causes laryngeal cancer. This placed Laryngeal cancer in the same category as Mesothelioma and Lung cancer as a widely accepted risk of asbestos exposure.
The link between the larger group of Head and Neck cancers and asbestos remained largely unestablished. However, French researchers have recently looked at the relationship between Head and Neck cancers and asbestos, beyond just the larynx. There are a large variety of cancers that affect the Head and Neck, including the oral cavity, nasal cavity, sinuses and salivary glands. The nasopharynx, oropharynx and hypopharynx are also potential sites for Head and Neck cancer. 90% of these cancers are of the squamous cell variety.
While risk factors for these types of cancer have traditionally included cigarette smoking and drinking alcohol, this French study added to the growing body of evidence that exposure to asbestos, both on the job and elsewhere, can cause these cancers of the head and neck. The French study looked at over 13,000 subjects with Head and Neck cancer over a ten-year period. The results confirmed the relationship between these cancers and exposure to asbestos. In addition, as with most asbestos-related cancers, the study confirmed the greater the exposure to asbestos, the greater the risk of suffering from a Head and Neck cancer.
At Doran and Murphy, we have successfully represented many railroad workers that have suffered from Head and Neck cancers as a result of their exposure to asbestos while working for the railroad. In fact, Doran and Murphy is one of the few law firms in the country that have successfully litigated cases like this and obtained a verdict for an injured railroad worker. We have previously written about the details of one such case. If you or a loved one has had laryngeal cancer or any other type of Head and Neck cancer, call us today to discuss your options.