Diseases Cancer

How Does Asbestos Cause Lung Cancer?


Nobody knew when they first started using asbestos back in the early 1900s that it could cause all kinds of related health issues. It was estimated that over 125 million people were exposed to asbestos within a 60 year span. Now we know and the government has limited the amount exposure people have to it. Asbestos is a natural formation of tiny fibers and comes in two types. Serpentine fibers are curly and are more commonly used in industries. Amphibole asbestos fibers are shaped like a needle and come in several types. The crocidolite type of the amphibole asbestos is the one known for causing cancer. However, there are links to the chrysotile type of asbestos also causing cancer.


Asbestos was a very common material to use since it is a naturally forming material and readily available. Asbestos doesn’t break down like some other natural materials, so it is a sturdy material for laborers to use. Laborers used it in roofing, flooring, and fire proofing materials. Asbestos is still used today in things such as duct tape and automotive parts. There’s a slight chance of there being asbestos in your drinking water from the pipes used to distribute water.

Because of the shape of asbestos fibers, they can easily attach themselves to any type of material. Workers can bring it home on their clothing or in their hair, thus exposing their family to asbestos. Lung cancer and mesotheliama happen when asbestos fiber gets in the lungs and attaches itself to the lining. Earlier in this article we mentioned that asbestos doesn’t break down as easily as other natural materials. The same is true when asbestos gets in the body.


We are seeing an influx of workers, mainly men who have been recently diagnosed with lung cancer or mesothelioma (a rare form of cancer that affects both chest and abdomen lining) due to asbestos because both cancers take a long time to develop. Exposure to asbestos could have been as long as 15 years ago. Mesotheliama can take up to 30 years to appear.

About 2,000-3,000 people are diagnosed yearly with asbestos causing lung cancer.

Workers who smoke have a greater chance of developing lung cancer related to asbestos. Smoking and mesothelioma are not linked, as of yet.

Tips and comments

While some people have no symptoms of lung cancer, three out of four people will have chest pain, difficulty swallowing, difficulty breathing, and coughing up blood. Symptoms of mesotheliama are chest pain, difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, coughing up blood, hoarseness, and sometimes pain in the lower back or side. Swollen stomach or stomach pain could mean the cancer has spread into the abdominal lining. If you have these symptoms or think you’ve been exposed to asbestos, see your doctor to get tested. There is help for you and your family. You may be able to receive compensation. If you are a veteran who has been exposed to asbestos and you’re now dealing with lung cancer, you can get treated at an area VA hospital.

By samque, published at 02/20/2012
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