What Can Asbestos Cause Beyond Mesothelioma?

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When you think of the diseases that asbestos can cause, mesothelioma is no doubt one of the top, if not the top, diseases that come to mind. Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer and is the most commonly caused asbestos-related disease, so it makes sense that it is fairly well known. However, there are other, slightly less well-known diseases that asbestos can cause, beyond mesothelioma.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was widely used in commercial and industrial materials throughout most of the twentieth century. While asbestos is present in many built and natural environments, low levels of undisturbed asbestos are unlikely to cause harm. It is only when the fibers are disturbed and become dislodged into the air around them that they become a major threat. While most asbestos exposure is caused by inhalation at the workplace, it can also occur in other situations. As asbestos is not universally banned, the potential to develop asbestos-related diseases in the United States is still present. Due to the severity of asbestos-related diseases, even beyond mesothelioma, it’s important to discuss the risks of breathing in these tiny mineral fibers.

Malignant Asbestos-Related Diseases

Besides mesothelioma, lung cancer is one of the most deadly asbestos-related diseases. Being cancers, both are malignant diseases, meaning cancerous cells create tumors and can also progressively spread to other parts of the body and become fatal. Lung cancer essentially blocks the lungs’ ability to process air and can occur within the lungs, air passages, or the lining of the lungs or chest cavity. Smoking greatly increases the risk of a lung cancer diagnosis when coupled with asbestos exposure.

Laryngeal Cancer

Cancer of the larynx can occur due to asbestos exposure. Larynx cancer, or laryngeal cancer, affects the tissues surrounding the voice box in the lower throat. While asbestos exposure has been proven to cause laryngeal cancer, other risk factors include smoking and heavy drinking.

Ovarian Cancer

Cancer of the ovaries has been rarely, but firmly, linked to asbestos exposure due to inhaling or ingesting asbestos fibers. The asbestos can reach the ovaries gradually over time, through the lymphatic system, reproductive system, or the bloodstream. The cancerous cells in the ovaries can then develop into epithelial tumors, stromal tumors, or germ cell tumors. Ovarian cancer can affect the tissues in the ovaries or the female reproductive glands.

Stomach Cancer

Stomach Cancer can sometimes be connected to asbestos exposure. It affects the mucus-creating cells that line the tissues of the gut and is sometimes called adenocarcinoma. This mucus system is the stomach’s first line of defense when it comes to maintaining a healthy barrier between the inside of the stomach and the rest of the organs outside.

Colon Cancer

The final track of the digestive system is the large intestine or the colon. Asbestos exposure may cause colon cancer, also called colorectal cancer, by developing polyps of malignant cells within this important digestive organ.

Bile Duct Cancer

Relatively recently, studies have also found an increased prevalence of bile duct cancer occurring in people who have been exposed to asbestos. Bile ducts are tiny tubes that connect our gallbladder, liver, and small intestines to deliver the enzymes we need to digest. When asbestos fibers become trapped in these tubes, cells can become malignant over time. These cases are on the rise worldwide.

Several other malignant, asbestos-related cancers may occur due to asbestos exposure. However, more research is needed to firmly establish that asbestos causes them. These malignant diseases include; esophageal cancer, gallbladder cancer, kidney cancer, and throat cancer

Non-Malignant Asbestos Related Diseases

Non-malignant diseases are also known as benign diseases because they do not cause cancerous tumors. Benign asbestos-related diseases are more common than malignant asbestos-related diseases are. However, just because these conditions are not cancerous does not mean that they are not serious diseases.

Pleural Diseases

When fluids build up in the pleural membranes, pleural effusions occur. This fluid buildup causes discomfort and shortness of breath due to the compression of fluids inside the pleural cavity. Over time, this condition can become increasingly painful as it becomes more difficult to breathe. While not necessarily life-threatening on its own, pleural effusion can also be symptomatic of other cancers. This condition requires drainage to ease the symptoms and can also reoccur unless a special procedure, called pleurodesis, is performed on the patient.

Pleural plaques can also occur due to asbestos exposure. This condition is a build-up of hardened, calcified buildups in the pleural membranes. While not overly serious, this benign disease is also uncomfortable due to its effects on breathing.

When pleural membranes become thickened, they can also develop lesions. These lesions combined with the thickening of the pleural membrane can decrease lung functioning to the point of preventing airflow into the lungs. This can be fatal.

Pleuritis is another pleural condition that is essentially an inflammation of the pleural membrane. This is caused by asbestos fibers building up, leading to intense, sharp pains when breathing, coughing, or moving the chest and shoulder areas.


The name for this benign disease establishes the clear link between asbestos exposure and certain diseases. Asbestosis is a severe scarring of the lung tissues that is caused by inhaling the tiny asbestos fibers over time. Asbestosis also inflames the lungs. All of this makes inhaling and exhaling very difficult and painful, as the chest becomes increasingly tighter and breathing more difficult.

This lung disease often develops through long-term asbestos exposure, and when the symptoms finally do appear and receive a confirmed diagnosis, they can be quite severe. While asbestosis is benign, it is still a contributor or underlying cause of death for many Americans.

Other Diseases

In addition to the above effects on pleural membranes and the lungs, the heart and abdomen can also sometimes be impacted by asbestos exposure. Pericardial effusion, similar to pleural effusion, is a buildup of fluid around the membranes surrounding the heart. It also causes shortness of breath and chest pain. Peritoneal effusion, finally, is a buildup of fluid in the abdominal cavity. It must be removed but can also reoccur over time.

What to Do If You May Have Been Exposed to Asbestos

If you have been exposed long-term to possible asbestos-containing materials, and if you are experiencing any symptoms related to the above diseases that cause you concern, your first step is to seek out prompt medical treatment and testing. It is better to be safe than sorry; reach out for a conversation with your medical provider so they can address your concerns.

Most asbestos-related diseases are the cause of prolonged asbestos exposure, not brief exposure. It is highly recommended that, particularly if you work in certain industrial, automotive, or construction trades, you help reduce your risk with proper airway protection at work, regular medical exams, limited drinking, and by avoiding smoking altogether.

If you receive a diagnosis for any asbestos-related diseases, your next best move is to get in touch with a dedicated asbestos attorney. The time in which you can file claims on certain asbestos-related conditions varies, so it is important to do so as soon as possible. We can help you with determining your most viable legal options for asbestos compensation. Contact us for your free consultation today.