Asbestos is a known carcinogen that was heavily used in industrial and commercial industries for countless years. This fibrous mineral material was favored due to its fire retardant, chemical retardant, and insulating properties, but as the connection between sickness and disease related issues and asbestos became increasingly apparent, its use was completely banned by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1989. Unfortunately many companies who were aware of the harmful effects continued to expose workers and laborers to its hazards.
Health Risks of Asbestos Exposure
There are a number of serious health risks of asbestos exposure, many of which do not present themselves until 20 to 30 years later. As the health effects of asbestos are not immediately recognizable, it is recommended that anyone who has undergone significant exposure should receive regular chest x-rays and monitoring for any changes within the lungs. One of the main diseases linked to exposure is cancer, the most common being mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma is the only asbestos related cancer that is caused exclusively by asbestos, and it affects around 2000 people in the US every year. This form of cancer develops due to elevated amounts of asbestos being ingested or inhaled over a period of time. This type of exposure can lead to inflammation and DNA damage which causes malignancy to occur in the lining of the lungs (pleura), abdomen (peritoneum), or in some rarer cases the heart (pericardium).
Other Asbestos Related Cancers
As more advanced studies have been carried out, the links between asbestos and other forms of cancers have began to surface, and these correlations continue to be investigated.
Lung cancer is probably one of most concern for those exposed to asbestos during their working lives, and it is also the second most common cancer in the whole of the United States. Lung cancer that is directly related to asbestos exposure is diagnosed more frequently than any other form of asbestos related cancer, and is called ‘the greatest heath risk to American asbestos workers’ by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Although non smokers are still at risk from developing asbestos related lung cancer, the risk among smokers is greatly increased, due to the synergistic effect of the smoke which severely weakens the lungs. Figures from the Environmental Working Group show that lung cancer related to asbestos has caused fatalities of 5,000 to 10,000 every year throughout the last two decades.
Breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women, affecting 1 in every 8. Although there are a number of factors that can contribute to and cause breast cancer, such as genetics, age, and gender, a series of studies have shown higher rates of breast cancer among women who have been exposed to asbestos.
The exact correlation between asbestos and breast cancer is uncertain, but some studies suggest that breast tissue may have been affected by asbestos fibers through retrograde lymphatic flow from the chest wall to the lungs.
Colorectal cancer is the biggest cause of cancer related deaths in the United States. While there is a plethora of evidence to suggest a correlation between colorectal cancer and asbestos exposure, some critics doubt the validity of these relationships and claim more research needs to be undertaken.
One study that analyzed 3,897 occupationally exposed patients between 1984 and 2004, noted that the risk of colorectal cancer was significantly higher in men who were exposed to asbestos during their occupation, and other similar studies have yielded comparable results.
Although research is still determining the exact relationships between asbestos and other cancers, it is clear that exposure to asbestos if not the cause, is certainly the aid in developing or worsening many of these forms of cancer.
Other possible asbestos related cancers include;
- Gastrointestinal Cancer
- Prostate Cancer
- Ovarian Cancer
- Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
- Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
- Throat Cancer
- Kidney Cancer
- Esophagus Cancer
- Gallbladder Cancer
Asbestos-Related Cancer Victims: Help is Available
If you or a loved one suffers from mesothelioma, contact an experienced asbestos litigation firm today, to discuss your options. Bergman Draper Oslund has decades of experience serving asbestos victims like you. Call us today for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation.