The effect of cigarette smoking on the detection of small radiographic opacities in inorganic dust diseases

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Whether cigarette smoking can cause radiographic opacities indistinguishable from those due to pneumoconiosis remains controversial. The situation becomes dearer when one limits the abnormalities to those that can be standardized under the International Labour Office (ILO) classification system. The bulk of the evidence indicates that, using the ILO system, cigarette smoking alone is not associated with radiographic opacities that would be mistaken for pneumoconiosis with sufficient frequency to be of any practical importance. The effects of cigarette smoking, as a coractor, in conjunction with occupational dust exposure depend on the type of dust. No relationship has been convincingly demonstrated for coal dust or silica. Only with asbestos exposure does there appear to be a significant cigarette smoldng-associated increase in the frequency of irregular radiographic opacities. This increase does not appear to translate into a restrictive impairment in pulmonary function. The limited information available indicates that the features of asbestosis on high-resolution computed tomography are not similarly related to cigarette smoking. Additional research is needed to substantiate the relationship between smoking and occupational exposure to dust of many types, and also the possible imaging and pathophysiologic significance of their interactions.

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