Asbestos cancer in the lungs: what you need to know

Exposure to asbestos has been proven to lead to cancer in the lung. The EPA has classified asbestos as carcinogenic or cancer-causing in humans. The more exposure to asbestos, the greater the chance of developing one of the asbestos cancers that strike the lungs including mesothelioma and lung cancer.

The people at greatest risk for asbestos cancer in the lung are those with very heavy exposure, usually over many years on the job.

The potential for asbestos exposure also exists with older buildings and products. In addition, people who suffer from asbestosis can eventually develop lung cancer.

Here are some asbestos facts from the ATSDR: Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry:

“Asbestos Facts

  • When asbestos fibers are inhaled, most fibers are expelled, but some can become lodged in the lungs and remain there throughout life. Fibers can accumulate and cause scarring and inflammation. Enough scarring and inflammation can affect breathing, leading to disease.
  • People are more likely to experience asbestos-related disorders when they are exposed to high concentrations of asbestos, are exposed for longer periods of time, and/or are exposed more often.
  • Inhaling longer, more durable asbestos fibers (such as tremolite and other amphiboles) contributes to the severity of asbestos-related disorders.
  • Exposure to asbestos, including tremolite, can increase the likelihood of lung cancer, mesothelioma, and non-malignant lung conditions such as asbestosis (restricted use of the lungs due to retained asbestos fibers) and changes in the lung lining.
  • Changes in the lining of the lungs (pleura) such as thickening, plaques, calcification, and fluid around the lungs (pleural effusion) may be early signs of asbestos exposure. These changes can affect breathing more than previously thought. Pleural effusion can be an early warning sign for mesothelioma (cancer of the lining of the lungs).
  • Most cases of asbestosis or lung cancer in workers occurred 15 years or more after the person was first exposed to asbestos.
  • Most cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed 30 years or more after the first exposure to asbestos.
  • Mesothelioma has been diagnosed in asbestos workers, family members, and residents who live close to asbestos mines.
  • Health effects from asbestos exposure may continue to progress even after exposure is stopped.
  • Smoking or cigarette smoke, together with exposure to asbestos, greatly increases the likelihood of lung cancer. See Cigarette Smoking, Asbestos Exposure, and your Health. “

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