Health Effects of Exposure to Asbestos

Those who are exposed to asbestos fibers are at risk for contracting asbestos-related disorders. Mesothelioma, lung cancer, ovarian cancer, and laryngeal cancer are all examples of asbestos-related cancers. Asbestosis, COPD, pleural plaques, pleural thickening, pleural effusion, and atelectasis are all nonmalignant asbestos illnesses.

Who is at Risk for Asbestos-Induced Disease?

Benign and malignant, or cancerous, are the two main disease kinds that asbestos exposure produces. Some asbestos-related disorders, despite being non-malignant and non-aggressive, still pose a hazard to life.

There is a clear association between asbestos exposure and four types of cancer, as well as a probable link to three more types of cancer, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

Cancers Caused by Exposure to Asbestos

  • Pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma
  • On the other hand, throat cancer
  • Cancer of the lungs
  • Breast cancer in women

Exposure to Asbestos May Increase the Risk of Certain Cancers

  • Cancer of the colon
  • stomach cancer
  • Cancer of the pharynx

Some Asbestos-Induced Nonmalignant Diseases

  • Asbestosis
  • An effusion in the peritoneum (ascites)
  • Atelectasis
  • Ischemia-reperfusion injury
  • Increased lung density
  • Pleural plaques with a hyaline tinge
  • Inflammation in the pleural space.

A Cancerous Asbestos-Involved Condition

Asbestos-related cancers such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, ovarian cancer, laryngeal cancer, and bile duct cancer are all malignant. Long-term exposure to high levels of asbestos is associated with a greater risk of getting an asbestos-related cancer than short-term exposure to low levels of asbestos.


More than 45,200 people died of mesothelioma in the United States between 1999 and 2015, despite decades of asbestos prohibitions, according to a 2017 CDC study. No other cause of work-related fatality is more prevalent than asbestos exposure.

Mesothelioma is a cancer that affects about 3,000 people a year in the United States, and the outlook for most of them is dismal. Most patients diagnosed with cancer die within a year of their first diagnosis.

Membrane cancers like mesothelioma are found in the linings of the body’s cavities. The lining of the lungs, stomach, heart, and testicles can all be affected by tumors. Pleural mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma, pericardial mesothelioma, and testicular mesothelioma are the names given to these disorders.

Chest or abdominal pain and shortness of breath are common symptoms of mesothelioma in many patients.

Cancer of the Lungs

Lung cancer is one of the most lethal asbestos-related malignancies, even though asbestos is only responsible for a small percentage of all lung cancer diagnoses. According to the National Cancer Institute, the disease claimed the lives of more than 155,870 people in the United States in 2017.

Tobacco smokers who have been exposed to asbestos have a far higher risk of developing non-small cell or small cell lung cancer than those who have not.

Cancer of the Ovum

Asbestos exposure has been linked to an increased risk of ovarian cancer since 2009. In addition to the ovaries of asbestos-exposed women, fibers have been discovered in the lymph nodes, blood, and the reproductive tract.

A 2.25-fold increase in the average risk of death from ovarian cancer was found in a clinical research study conducted in 2021 among groups of people exposed to asbestos at work. Work-related ovarian cancer should receive the same level of acknowledgment as occupational lung and laryngeal cancer, according to the study’s authors.

Cancer of the Larynx

Laryngeal cancer is another asbestos-related malignancy. Laryngeal cancer has been linked to asbestos exposure, but smoking and heavy drinking are more important risk factors.

Malignancy of the Biliary Tract

Asbestos exposure has been linked to an increased risk of bile duct cancer, according to a study published in 2009.

The liver and small intestines receive enzymes from the gallbladder through bile ducts. These small tubules can trap asbestos fibers.

Intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma is a form of bile duct cancer that is found within of the liver. For 40% of ICC patients, the only risk factor was exposure to asbestos, according to a paper released in 2020. Asbestos exposure may be a factor in the rise of ICC incidence and mortality over the world.

In addition to Asbestos-Induced Cancers,

Cancers of the esophagus, gallbladder, kidney, and throat may also be linked to asbestos exposure.

There are conflicting research on the link between asbestos and cancerous tumors. Asbestos is suspected to be a risk factor, but no proof of a connection has been found.

Asbestos-Induced Illnesses

Asbestosis and pleural effusions are two examples of non-cancerous asbestos-related disorders that are more common than cancers.

It’s possible that this disparity in prevalence is due to variances in the amount of exposure required to trigger each illness. One exposure can result in benign and malignant diseases, but malignant problems are most often the result of many years of exposure.


Exposure to asbestos fibers can result in asbestosis, a debilitating illness of the lungs. Lung scarring and inflammation are hallmarks of the lung illness, which is not cancerous. Shortness of breath and chest tightness are common signs of asbestosis, which inhibits the lungs from expanding and relaxing normally.

Asbestosis is a lung illness that affects the interstitial space (ILD). Some other factors that contribute to ILD include exposure to silica and coal dust, cotton dusts, harsh metal dusts and diseases like Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Asbestosis, despite the fact that it is innocuous, can be exceedingly dangerous. Asbestosis was a contributing or underlying cause of mortality for more than 1,400 people in the United States between 2000 and 2007.

Building trades such as carpentry, pipefitting, lagging, and painting all have a high risk of asbestosis according to a study published in NPJ Primary Care Respiratory Medicine in 2018.

Effusions of Pleural Serum

An accumulation of fluid in the space between the pleural membrane layers is called a pleural effusion. Eventually, it builds up in the chest cavity, where it causes lung tightness and shortness of breath. Effusions can occur on their own, although they are usually a sign of advanced mesothelioma or non-mesothelioma tumors at late stages.

Pleural effusions are not life-threatening on their own. They can cause discomfort and even make it difficult to breathe for some people. It is conceivable that the fluid will reappear even after it has been removed by the use of a surgery known as pleurodesis. When the pleural membranes are adhered together by a pleurodesis procedure, the lungs are unable to separate from the chest wall and liquid cannot accumulate.

It is possible for fluid to build around the lung in the chest cavity even after a pleurodesis procedure, as long as the membranes that surround the lung did not adhere properly.

Effusions from the Abdomen

The term “peritoneal effusion” refers to a buildup of fluid in the abdomen, or peritoneum. Ascites is another name for this ailment, and it can be treated by draining the fluids from the body.

For example, pleural effusions might occur again and again if the underlying cause of fluid collection is not dealt with.

Because of the rarity of the condition, it is most likely that effusions are caused by benign or other cancerous conditions rather than by peritonitis.

Effusions of the Pericardium

A pericardial effusion is a buildup of fluid between the layers of the membrane that surrounds the heart’s chambers and chamber walls. Shortness of breath and chest pain are common symptoms of this illness.

Pericardial effusion, while treatable, is typically an indication of a far more dangerous condition, such as pericardial mesothelioma. However, it can also be caused by benign conditions, such as viral infections.

Inflammatory lesions in the pleura

Exposure to asbestos frequently results in the development of pleural plaques. Unless they get quite thick, these calcified deposits on the pleural membrane aren’t considered harmful to health.

Whether plaques are a sign of prior asbestos exposure and therefore the genuine etiology of mesothelioma or not is a matter of debate among experts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *