Lung Cancer from Asbestos Exposure: What You Need to Know
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 107,000 people die annually from asbestos-related lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.5 Of those three diseases, asbestos-related lung cancer takes the lives of 57,000 people every year.5
Asbestos Exposure in America
If you have been in close proximity to any asbestos-containing products or materials, you are at risk for developing asbestos-related lung cancer in the future. Most people are exposed to asbestos “in their workplace, their communities, or their homes.”2
Asbestos fibers were used in building materials, appliances, and other products for their heat resistant properties until the late 1970s when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned its use in several industries. However, it is still used today in some products, such as automobile clutches, brake pads, corrugated sheet, imported cement pipe, roofing materials, and vinyl tile.3
Smoking Is a Risk Factor for Asbestos-Related Lung Cancer
Smoking also increases your risk of developing asbestos-related lung cancer. The American Cancer Society found that in “workers exposed to asbestos who also smoke, the lung cancer risk is even greater than adding the risks from these exposures separately.”4
How Does Asbestos Cause Lung Cancer?
Asbestos exposure occurs when its “fibers are released into the air when friable asbestos-containing materials are disturbed.”3 If inhaled, some of these fibers “can reach the ends of the small airways in the lungs or penetrate into the outer lining of the lung and chest wall.”4 Over time, they can irritate the cells in the lung or pleura, causing lung cancer or mesothelioma to develop.4
Typically, asbestos-related lung cancer occurs “15 years after the first exposure to asbestos.”4 This type of lung cancer will develop faster if the victim was exposed to higher levels of asbestos and/or smoked cigarettes.
Linking Lung Cancer Diagnosis to Asbestos Exposure
In 1997, the Helsinki Criteria were established to help doctors determine when respiratory diseases are caused by asbestos. Both asbestos-related lung cancer and other types of lung cancer generally have similar symptoms (including persistent coughing, shortness of breath, chest discomfort or pain, etc), so lung cancer cases must be further investigated to be linked with asbestos exposure. 1
For a lung cancer case to be diagnosed as asbestos-related, it must fit at least one criteria regarding the latency period and evidence of asbestos exposure. First, the lung cancer must have developed “ten years from the first asbestos exposure after the initial exposure to asbestos.”6
The patient may also have been diagnosed with asbestosis in the past. Their lungs typically have higher than normal levels of asbestos fibers in their lung tissue. They may have been exposed to greater than or equal to 25 fibers per milliliter of air a year.6
Diagnosed with an Asbestos-Related Disease? We Can Help
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease like mesothelioma, our attorneys at Shannon Law Group P.C. can help you get the consultation you deserve. Please call us at (312) 578-9501 or toll-free at (886) 881-9980. You can fill out our online contact form here. We will get back to you as soon as possible. A free no-obligation consultation is available as well.