Asbestos can cause many kinds of cancers. One of the more common ones is lung cancer. If you’re exposed to asbestos, you may inhale fibers into your lungs. They become stuck, your immune system can’t destroy them, and fibers cause genetic changes in the surrounding tissue over years or decades. The result is malignant tumors in your lungs.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous mineral. Due to its strength, heat, and fire resistance, asbestos was widely used in building materials and other products for decades. Asbestos fibers are released into the air when products are first installed if they become damaged, as they age, and if they’re removed.
Fibers remain suspended in the air and can enter your lungs if inhaled. Asbestos can damage your lungs, including lung cancer, asbestosis (lung scarring and inflammation that restricts breathing), and pleural mesothelioma (an aggressive cancer of the lung’s linings). Because of its health risks, asbestos use is heavily restricted but still legal for some purposes.
How are People Exposed to Asbestos?
Until the 1980s, in the US, asbestos was a common ingredient in many products, including:
- Siding shingles
- Floor tiles
- Acoustic ceiling tiles
- Textured paints
- Heat-resistant fabrics
- Automotive parts
- Electrical equipment
- Cosmetic body powders
Older homes, commercial buildings, industrial sites, and schools are common places to find asbestos. Those most at risk of asbestos-related lung cancer include:
- Asbestos miners
- Asbestos abatement workers
- Custodial and maintenance workers
- Insulation workers
- Those working in steel mills and aluminum smelters
- Chemical plant workers
- Vehicle and train mechanics
- Railroad workers
Others working in the same area were also exposed to asbestos fibers. Often, these workers returned home from work in clothes covered with asbestos, exposing those they lived with. Asbestos fibers in the air are inhaled or swallowed. They become lodged in many parts of the body, especially the lungs.
Does Asbestos Cause Lung Cancer?
Two main types of studies substantiate the fact asbestos fibers cause lung cancer:
- Studies involving people or epidemiologic studies
- Lab studies that involve lab animals or cells in lab dishes
Evidence from both studies shows that asbestos can significantly increase the risk of lung cancer, especially if the person previously smoked tobacco.
Inhaling asbestos fibers is linked to an increased risk of lung cancer in studies of workers exposed to asbestos. This higher risk involves all forms of asbestos, and the greater the exposure, the higher the risk. Most asbestos-related lung cancer cases develop at least a decade after the first exposure.
How Does Asbestos Cause Lung Cancer?
Asbestos’ presence in the lungs leads to chronic inflammation and scarring of the lung tissue. Asbestos fibers irritate the tissue, and the body’s immune system tries to destroy them. They’re too durable, and the white cells around them break open, spilling enzymes into the area and causing more scarring and inflammation.
Asbestos fibers also cause genetic damage in lung cells. DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is a molecule found in the cells of all living organisms, including humans. It’s the genetic blueprint or code containing instructions necessary for living organisms’ growth, development, functioning, and reproduction. DNA has a central role in our heredity and biological processes.
The presence of asbestos fibers and lung inflammation may lead to DNA mutations, which may result in uncontrolled cell growth and lung cancer. The damaged lung cells become malignant, forming tumors that may spread (or metastasize) to other body parts.
How Does Smoking Affect the Risk of Lung Cancer for Those Exposed to Asbestos?
Many studies show that the combination of asbestos exposure and smoking is particularly dangerous. Smokers exposed to asbestos have a lung cancer risk greater than the risks from asbestos and smoking added together, according to the National Cancer Institute. Stopping smoking reduces the lung cancer risk of those exposed to asbestos.
Call Satterley & Kelley, PLLC, Today For A Free Initial Consultation
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with lung cancer after asbestos exposure, you may be entitled to financial compensation for your hardship. Call us at 855-385-9532 or contact us online to arrange a free initial consultation with a lawyer. We will discuss your situation, your best legal options, and how we can help.