How Does Asbestos Cause Life-Threatening Cancer?

Asbestos is a naturally-occurring, fibrous mineral that was once and still is used in some consumer products due to its strength and heat-resistant qualities. In fact, the National Cancer Institute states that up to 5,000 consumer products contained asbestos since it was first patented for manufacturing and construction use in 1828. In the late 1800s, reports emerged describing illnesses in the workers employed by manufacturing and construction companies using asbestos. Despite the fact that many companies involved rejected these claims, well-respected doctors continued to publish research which by 1960 undeniably proved that asbestos exposure leads to mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other cancers.

Asbestos Is Deadly if Inhaled or Ingested

When asbestos fibers are inhaled or ingested, they penetrate the lungs, chest wall, and other areas of the body, causing genetic damage to cells, and eventually causing cancer, which is defined as the loss of controlled cell growth. Once trapped inside the body, asbestos fibers disrupt the normal process of cell division and replication. Because it takes many genetic errors before a damaged cell becomes cancerous, it usually takes somewhere between 10 to 80 years after exposure to asbestos for these cancers to develop. This latency period can make it challenging for doctors to diagnose any asbestos-related disease.

A Breakdown of Asbestos-Related Cancers

Anyone can be (and often is) exposed to asbestos at some point in their lives. However, asbestos-related diseases are more common among those who work in the trades or do manual labor. Some of the high-risk occupations include mechanics, construction workers, factory workers, insulators, miners, Navy veterans, and more. Asbestos-containing products were more popular in these lines of work, causing laborers in these categories to have higher levels of asbestos exposure than others. Asbestos-related diseases are “dose-dependent,” meaning the more times and longer durations you are exposed, the more likely you are to develop one of these cancers:


Mesothelioma is the most common form of cancer resulting from asbestos exposure. There are four different types of mesothelioma, which are determined by the area of the body affected by the asbestos fibers.

  • Pleural Mesothelioma – tumor develops in the pleura, which is the plastic-wrap like thin and translucent organ made of mesothelial cells that surrounds and protects the lungs. The tumor obliterates the pleura, crushing the lungs and causing a buildup of fluid known as pleural effusion, both of which cause intense pain and shortness of breath.
  • Peritoneal Mesothelioma – asbestos fibers can penetrate the peritoneum, which is the lining of the stomach or abdomen made of mesothelial cells that protects the organs in the abdomen.
  • Pericardial Mesothelioma – cancer develops in the pericardium, the thin lining made up of mesothelial cells that surround and protect the heart.
  • Gonadal Mesothelioma – cancer can also develop in the gonads or testicles because the scrotum is an extension of the peritoneum. It is the rarest form of mesothelioma.

Lung Cancer

Asbestos is considered a major cause of lung cancer. Asbestos-caused lung cancer develops even in the absence of other cancer-causing agents, such as smoking. However, asbestos exposure combined with smoking greatly increases the risk of developing lung cancer. This is called synergy.

Other Cancers

In addition to mesothelioma and lung cancer, asbestos exposure can also cause colon cancer, kidney cancer, throat cancer, other cancers, and non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Legal Options for Those Diagnosed with Asbestos-Related Diseases

Companies denied the medical research and the dangers of asbestos for decades, and the individuals affected by their poor decisions deserve a fighting chance. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer-related to asbestos exposure, contact us for more information about filing a claim.