Diseases Caused By Asbestos Exposure
Of the diseases caused by asbestos exposure, Asbestosis is one that usually develops slowly. It is a lung disease caused by breathing asbestos fibers. Asbestosis is a scarring (or fibrosis) of the insides of the lungs. Asbestosis usually develops slowly over a period of years and typically does not become evident until decades after one is first exposed to asbestos. This long period of development for the disease is known as the latency period. Another important note, asbestosis is often progressive, meaning the disease worsens over time with or without further exposure to asbestos.
Individuals diagnosed with asbestosis are at a higher risk of developing an asbestos cancer.
2. Lung Cancer
Asbestos is a carcinogen. Exposure not only causes non-malignant disease inside the lungs, but also causes cancer inside the lungs. Asbestos has been the single largest cause of occupational cancer in the United States. As with asbestosis, another one of the diseases caused by asbestos exposure is asbestos lung cancer, which typically occur decades after one has first been exposed.
Combining asbestos exposure with smoking further increases the risk of lung cancer. The U.S. Surgeon General reports that a worker who smokes who has not been exposed to asbestos has a ten times higher risk of developing lung cancer as compared to a non-smoking, non-asbestos exposed worker. A non-smoking asbestos exposed worker has a five times risk of developing lung cancer as compared to a non-smoking, non-asbestos exposed worker. But when you combine the two carcinogens, a smoking asbestos exposed worker has a much higher risk of developing lung cancer compared to a non-smoking, non-asbestos exposed worker.
Most noteworthy, all four major types of lung cancer (squamous, adeno-, large-cell and small-cell carcinoma) can be related to asbestos. Clinical signs and symptoms of asbestos-related and non-asbestos-related lung cancers are the same.
This is one of the diseases caused by asbestos exposure that you have likely already heard of: Mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a cancer of the mesothelium, a protective thin membrane that covers the major internal organs of the body. The most common site of mesothelioma is the pleura, which is the outer lining of the lungs and internal chest wall. Mesothelioma can also occur in the peritoneum, the lining of the abdominal cavity or stomach, as well as the lining around the heart or pericardium.
Mesothelioma is so strongly associated with asbestos exposure that it is known as a “signal” tumor. This is because it is almost always caused by asbestos. In fact, asbestos exposure is the only known cause of mesothelioma in the American workplace.
Consequently, most people who develop mesothelioma have been affected first-hand or second-hand. They may have worked in jobs where they inhaled asbestos fibers. Or they unknowingly inhaled fibers brought home by a family member who had worked around it. Unlike lung cancer, there is no association between mesothelioma and smoking.
Questions about any of these diseases caused by asbestos exposure?
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