Types of Cancer Caused by Asbestos
Asbestos has been linked to various types of cancer, but some are more clearly linked than others. In all cases of asbestos-related cancer, the greater the exposure to asbestos, the greater the individual’s risk of cancer.
Asbestos exposure is the only known cause of mesothelioma, and once asbestos has triggered this cancer, it may take years for symptoms to develop.
Approximately 3,000 people are diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma each year in the United States. Mesothelioma rates are even higher in other nations that don’t have as much awareness about asbestos health hazards.
There are 4 types of mesothelioma:
- Pleural Mesothelioma: Pleural refers to the lungs and respiratory system. The lungs are relatively large organs with a significant mesothelium membrane area. They’re also the first stop for asbestos fibers entering the body. Approximately 80% of asbestos cancer cases are pleural mesothelioma.
- Peritoneal Mesothelioma: This type of cancer attacks the abdominal area and neighboring organs. The stomach, liver, kidneys, and spleen are targets for peritoneal mesothelioma. It accounts for roughly 20% of asbestos-caused cancers.
- Pericardial Mesothelioma: The heart lining is called the pericardium, and it’s also a mesothelium-type membrane. Often misdiagnosed as another cardiac ailment, pericardial mesothelioma is quite rare, making up about 1% of all cases.
- Testicular Mesothelioma: This is a very rare type of mesothelioma that develops in the lining of the testes (tunica vaginalis). There are less than 1,000 confirmed testicular mesothelioma cases recorded in medical literature. Scientists know little about how asbestos fibers reach the testicular lining.
Regardless of type, mesothelioma often has a poor outlook for recovery and life expectancy. However, the companies that exposed millions of Americans to asbestos and caused them to develop this terrible disease were forced to set aside asbestos trust funds to compensate their victims.
Victims of mesothelioma are encouraged to seek asbestos trust fund compensation to hold these companies accountable.
Asbestos-related lung cancer is caused by inhalation or ingestion of the fibrous asbestos particles. Inhalation can occur from asbestos mining, the manufacturing of asbestos-containing products, or disturbing/breaking down asbestos products.
Did You Know?
20% of tumors located in the lungs are linked to asbestos exposure.
Asbestos exposure can lead to lung cancer in a two-part process. First, asbestos fibers embed themselves in the soft inner tissues of the lungs. The asbestos fibers then travel over the soft tissue and make their way into the lung lining.
Once these fibers have been inhaled and taken into the lungs, there is no way for them to be forced out, so they start to create small incisions. The body’s natural reaction is to then begin the healing process by trying to cover these small incisions with scar tissue.
This can create small or large build-ups over time (tumors). In some instances, the tumors will become malignant, meaning they have the ability to spread. This process can take anywhere from 20 to 50 years, depending on the individual.
Smoking tobacco products can greatly increase a person’s risk of lung cancer tied to asbestos. Patients who smoke are up to 50 times more likely to contract asbestos-related cancer than non-smokers.
In 2016, a former cement panel cutter passed away from kidney cancer caused by asbestos, with no other evidence of asbestos in other organs.
Researchers are still unsure how asbestos fibers may end up in the kidneys, but one conclusion is that when asbestos fibers are ingested, they can flow through the digestive tract and settle in the kidneys. Once there, the fibers may cause scar tissue to form, which can eventually become cancerous and metastasize (spread).
When working in an industry that relied on asbestos-containing products, the possibility of ingesting or inhaling asbestos fibers is drastically increased — and so is the possibility of developing asbestos-related cancer.
Other Cancers Linked to Asbestos
- Laryngeal (voice box) cancer
- Pharyngeal (throat) cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Stomach cancer
- Colorectal cancer
- Cancers found in other abdominal organs
Laryngeal cancer is linked to the inhalation or ingestion of asbestos fibers. Additionally, asbestos fibers may reach the ovaries and cause ovarian cancer by migrating across the diaphragm in the peritoneal cavity.