The major diseases caused by asbestos exposure are lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma cancer. When a person breathes in asbestos fibers, some of those fibers lodge in the lungs, which over time can develop into an asbestos-related disease.
More than 220,000 lung cancer cases were diagnosed in the U.S. in 2017 but only about 4 percent are due to asbestos exposure. Smoking cigarettes is the primary cause of lung cancer.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States. It kills more Americans each year than breast, prostate and colon cancer combined.
Medical researchers first made a probable causal relationship between asbestos exposure and lung cancer in 1935. Seven years later, a member of the National Cancer Institute confirmed asbestos as a cause of lung cancer.
Asbestos Lung Cancer Facts
- Symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain and coughing up blood
- May develop 15 to 35 years after asbestos exposure
- Two main forms are small cell and non-small cell
- Prognosis and treatment depend on type and stage of cancer
Study after study continued to show the cause-effect relationship of asbestos and lung cancer. In 1986, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) proclaimed lung cancer as the greatest risk for Americans who work with asbestos.