Asbestos dust is most closely associated with mesothelioma, the rare cancer caused by exposure to asbestos dust. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, mesothelioma is the most common form of cancer associated with asbestos exposure.
Mesothelioma occurs when asbestos fibers become lodged in the pleural lining of the mesothelium, the thin tissue surrounding vital organs. However, mesothelioma is not the only danger from inhaling asbestos fibers. Asbestos may cause a variety of serious lung conditions, cancers and other illnesses.
Below is a list of established diseases caused by asbestos.
When lodged in the lung, asbestos can cause inflammation and scarring (fibrosis). This leads to chest pain, shortness of breath and other symptoms. Asbestosis puts significant strain on the heart, greatly increasing the risk of heart disease. Asbestosis causes numerous fatalities every year from heart failure.
- Lung cancer
Commonly diagnosed along with asbestosis, asbestos fibers cause lung cancer when asbestos fibers become lodged in lung tissue. Asbestos is a known causal factor in all types of lung cancer.
- Other cancers
Asbestos is also a risk factor for laryngeal cancer, ovarian cancer and testicular cancer, according to IARC. The type of cancer that develops can depend on the type of asbestos exposure. Some people are exposed to asbestos through personal hygiene products, for example, which increases the risk of ovarian cancer.
Asbestos can also cause plaques in the pleura, the lining of the lungs. While not cancerous, these plaques can build and harden over time, which can cause pain and may require medication or surgery to correct. Inflammation can also cause fluid buildup and may require treatment.
Exposed to asbestos? Talk to your doctor.
These medical conditions take a long time to develop, usually anywhere between 10 and 40 years from the date of exposure. If you are experiencing symptoms of mesothelioma or another condition described above, talk to your doctor about the potential causes.