A to C: Understanding how Asbestos Exposure Can Lead to a Cancer Diagnosis

Posted on Monday, October 31st, 2022 at 1:12 pm    

No one wants to hear the dreaded diagnosis, but the sad reality is that millions of people each year will be diagnosed with a form of cancer. Nearly every part of the body is susceptible to the uncontrollable growth of abnormal cells, which is the starting point for tumors. Cancerous tumors however can spread into nearby tissue, or travel far from the originating point to infect more of the body (a process called metastasis). 

Cancer is a genetic disease, but this does not mean you can only inherit cancer. Instead, genetic changes such as damage to the DNA from external factors like harmful substances in the environment are frequent causes. These external factors can be individual choices such as the use of tobacco and the consumption of alcohol, and they can be environmental factors such as exposure to ultraviolet rays (sunlight) and other hazardous radiation. 

A lesser known, but just as dangerous substance, is asbestos. This harmful toxin was used extensively in the 1900s due to its effectiveness as an insulator and its inexpensive cost. Many industries utilized it in some form or another, including but not limited to:

  • Manufacturing
  • Automotive/Mechanical
  • Petrochemical/Gas/Oil
  • Military
  • Utilities/Electrical/Water/Gas
  • Construction – residential and commercial
  • Shipyards – military and commercial
  • Railroads

Due to the effectiveness of the asbestos fibers, many industries incorporated it into their products. A list of products with asbestos in them is ever growing, but a partial list includes:

  • Talcum powder (including baby powder)
  • Powder cosmetics (including blush and eye shadow)
  • Boilers
  • Insulation
  • Roofing materials (tiles, weatherproofing, etc.)
  • Construction materials (insulation, joint compound, ceiling and floor tiles, adhesives)
  • Pipes for hot water and steam
  • Gaskets
  • Brakes (brake pads, brake linings)
  • Automotive clutches
  • Valves
  • Engines
  • Textured paint
  • Walls and floors around wood-burning stoves with paper, millboard, or cement sheets
  • Heat resistant fabrics such as gloves
  • Cement
  • Electrical components (such as insulated wires)
  • Cigarette filters
  • Appliances
  • Hair dryers
  • Children’s toys (crayons and clay)

The dangers of asbestos have been known since the 1930s, but only recently are companies facing the consequences for using asbestos in their products. At this very moment, asbestos is still being mined and used in products around the world, but safety warnings were non-existent decades ago when the fibers were being used with immense frequency. Users, unaware of the associated medical risks, would use these products without the proper protective gear. Doing so led to the inhalation of the fibers, which can hook into the lung tissue and cause severe breathing issues. 

This external factor damages the cells, and if the cells attempt to grow, they can begin growing in an abnormal way which triggers the growth of “spots”, “nodes”, “nodules”, and other small potential tumors. The risk of cancerous or benign polyps, nodules, and tumors can vary based on other factors, such as hereditary traits and other external factors like smoking, but the presence of asbestos fibers in the body alone can trigger cancer. There is the synergistic effect of someone smoking and being exposed to asbestos. This can make your likelihood to developing cancer substantially higher. Specialized doctors who have experience in treating asbestos-related illnesses are able to detect these “j” shaped fibers and can differentiate between the effects of smoking on the lungs and asbestos scarring. 

While the fibers typically are inhaled into the body, the lungs are not the only organ susceptible to asbestos-related cancer. Cancers of the respiratory and digestive tracts are also at risk of asbestos-related causes. These cancers include:

  • Esophageal Cancer (cancer of the esophagus)
  • Laryngeal Cancer (cancer of the larynx)
  • Stomach Cancer (also known as gastric cancer)
  • Colon Cancer
  • Rectal Cancer
  • Mesothelioma

If you have developed any of the cancers listed above, you may be entitled to compensation. Minor symptoms such as shortness of breath, dry cough, loss of appetite, difficulty swallowing, or abdominal pain can also indicate a diagnosis of other asbestos-related illnesses. If you have not been diagnosed with cancer but recall working around any of the substances or in any of the industries listed above, reach out to our office so we can provide a free consultation and discuss your options. We can provide insight on the diagnosing process and potential options through phone, email, or our Facebook page.

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