What diseases does asbestos cause?

What diseases does asbestos cause?

People may be exposed to asbestos in their workplace, schools, commercial buildings or their homes. If products containing asbestos are disturbed, tiny asbestos fibers are released into the air. This occurs during the mining and processing of asbestos, when making asbestos-containing products, or when installing asbestos insulation. Those activities are still commonplace in the thirdworld where bans and regulations do not exist.
In developed nations exposure occur when older buildings are demolished or under renovation, or when older asbestos-containing materials begin to break down. In any of these situations, asbestos fibers tend to create a dust made of tiny particles that can float in the air.  When asbestos fibers are breathed in, they may get trapped in the lungs and remain there for a long time.

What diseases does asbestos cause
What diseases does asbestos cause?

Over time, these fibers can accumulate and cause scarring and inflammation, which can affect breathing and lead to deadly diseases, such as lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis.

What diseases does asbestos cause?


Malignant mesothelioma is an aggressive and incurable cancer. Mesothelioma has a poor prognosis, with most patients dying within 1 year of diagnosis.
It is caused by asbestos arising from mesothelial cells of the pleura (the lining of the lungs), peritoneum (the lining of the abdominal cavity) and rarely elsewhere. Pleural mesothelioma is the most common type of mesothelioma, representing about 75 percent of cases. Peritoneal mesothelioma is the second most common type, consisting of about 10 to 20 percent of cases. Mesothelioma appears from 20 to 50 years after the initial exposure to asbestos.

Lung cancer

Asbestos can cause lung cancer that is identical to lung cancer from other causes. The latency period between exposure and development of lung cancer is 20 to 30 years. It is estimated that 3%-8% of all lung cancers are related to asbestos. Symptoms include chronic cough, chest pain, breathlessness, haemoptysis (coughing up blood), wheezing or hoarseness of the voice, weight loss and fatigue. Prognosis is generally poor unless the cancer is detected in its early stages. Out of all patients diagnosed with lung cancer, only 15% survive for five years after diagnosis.


Asbestosis is a chronic lung disease caused by scarring of lung tissue, which results from prolonged exposure to asbestos. It initially affects the lung bases and usually manifests after 15 or more years from initial exposure. It occurs after high intensity and/or long-term exposure to asbestos. Asbestos-related fibrosis is progressive because it continues to progress in the lung even if no further asbestos is inhaled. The scar tissue causes the alveolar walls to thicken, reducing the lung capacity which leads to the patient experiencing shortness of breath (dyspnea). Sufferers are at an increased risk for
heart failure and certain malignancies.

Pleural plaques

Pleural plaques are the most common manifestation of asbestos exposure. Pleural plaques are discrete circumscribed areas of hyaline fibrosis (patches of thickening) of the parietal pleura that develop 20 to 40 years after first exposure. Over time, usually more than 30 years, they often become partly calcified. Pleural plaqu s are typically asymptomatic, though evidence of past asbestos exposure and indicate an increased risk for the future development of other asbestos-related diseases.

Diffuse pleural thickening

If you ask what diseases does asbestos cause, you will also hear about “diffuse pleural thickening” (DPT). DPT is non-circumscribed fibrous thickening of the visceral pleura with areas of adherence to the parietal pleura and obliteration of the pleural space. Diffuse pleural thickening develops 20 to 40 years after first exposure. It usually begins with an inflammation of the pleura that is accompanied by a pleural effusion. Most patients complain of exertional breathlessness, however, chest pain has been also associated with this disorder. DPT has a significant impact on pulmonary function, causing a decrease in forced vital capacity, reducing total lung capacity and diffusing capacity.

Benign asbestos pleural effusion

Benign asbestos pleural effusion is an exudative pleural effusion (a buildup of fluid between the two pleural layers) following asbestos exposure. It is relatively uncommon and the earliest manifestation of disease following asbestos exposure, usually occurring within 10 years from exposure. Effusions may be asymptomatic but rarely, they can cause pain, fever, and breathlessness. Effusions can also progress to diffuse pleural thickening.

Rounded atelectasis

Rounded atelectasis develops from infolding of thickened visceral pleura with collapse of the intervening lung parenchyma. It presents radiographically as a mass and may be mistaken for a tumour. Rounded atelectasis is the least common asbestos-related benign pleural disease. Exposure to asbestos is the most
likely cause today but it can occur following other medical conditions. It is a chronic condition and usually asymptomatic.

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