Other Asbestos-related Illnesses
Asbestos, widely employed in American industry throughout much of the 20th century, still has not been completely banned. It was used in fireproofing, insulation, automobile parts such as brake shoes and wherever heat resistance was important. Some 10,000 people die from asbestos-related illnesses each year, and 100,000 develop non-fatal ailments. Mesothelioma is not the only disease resulting from asbestos exposure.
Lung cancer is the most frequent cause of death in patients who have been exposed to asbestos. Some studies have estimated that the number of lung cancer deaths from asbestos exposure may be as high as 10 times the number of mesothelioma deaths. Non-smokers who work around asbestos are at seven times the risk of developing lung cancer, as compared with the general population. Smoking increases this risk to between 50 and 100 times the normal danger.
The symptoms of asbestos-related lung cancer are similar to those of normal lung cancer. These include:
- Persistent chest pain
- Changes in breathing
- Shortness of breath
People who have worked around asbestos and who experience any of these symptoms—especially if they were smokers—should consult a doctor immediately for an examination.
Asbestosis is a non-cancerous respiratory illness caused by prolonged asbestos exposure. Because the lungs are unable to break down asbestos fibers, they can become trapped in the airways, leading to asbestosis. Eventually, the disease can cause scarring and stiffness of the lung tissue, decreasing the flow of oxygen to other parts of the body. This, in turn, can lead to a number of other serious conditions, including high blood pressure, heart problems or lung cancer.
The symptoms of asbestosis are similar to other respiratory diseases, such as asthma.
People who know or suspect that they were exposed to asbestos should be aware of the symptoms of asbestosis:
- Shortness of breath
- Exhaustion after normal physical activity
- Chest pain
Asbestosis symptoms may not appear for 20 to 30 years after exposure and may develop slowly over a period of months, meaning that many people with the disease may be unaware of their condition. However, more than 10,000 individuals died from asbestosis in the 1990s alone, making it one of the most deadly asbestos-related diseases.
Other asbestos-related cancers
Although lung cancer and mesothelioma are the most common diseases linked to asbestos exposure, a number of other types of cancer are prevalent among people who were exposed to asbestos.
If asbestos fibers are ingested through the mouth, they can lodge in the stomach and cause cancer. Several studies have demonstrated that asbestos workers are at a much greater risk of developing stomach cancer than the general population.
Studies have also indicated that people who were exposed to asbestos are at a greater risk of being diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer. According to research conducted at Yale University, asbestos workers are at a 54% increased risk of developing colon cancer.