Asbestos and Its Cancers

The illness most commonly associated with asbestos is mesothelioma, which is cancer that develops in the thin layer of tissue that lines internal organs like the lungs, stomach or heart. Mesothelioma most commonly affects the lungs and is frequently confused with lung cancer, as the symptoms are very similar. Mesothelioma lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm detail the cancers and illnesses caused by asbestos to help those suffering find legal recourse.

Head and neck cancers – such as pharyngeal, esophageal, throat, and thyroid cancers – can also be caused by exposure to asbestos. Men are about three times more likely to develop these types of cancers than women, and most cases occur in men over the age of 50. As with most cancers, survival largely depends on the stage at diagnosis.

There are many studies and articles that examine the association between asbestos and head and neck cancers. Among these studies the strongest evidence of this association comes from those who work with insulation. This is not surprising – insulation is the largest source of asbestos exposure in workers throughout the 20th century. Insulation is used in homes, ships, cars, manufacturing facilities, and buildings of all types, and asbestos was used in all types of insulation until around the 1970s; in fact, insulation workers were often referred to as asbestos workers.

Although asbestos was banned in the 1970s due to its clear and devastating health consequences, the asbestos industry lobbied heavily in Congress and the medical community to lift the ban. In 1991, the EPA agreed to lift the asbestos ban, allowing companies to use it in products as long as there was less than 1% of asbestos in the final product.

The problem with this is that there is no safe level of asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma affects victims of all types, it does not necessarily depend on how long or how much you were exposed to asbestos – anyone can develop mesothelioma, even those who were exposed briefly and minimally. It is a disease unique to each person: some people are exposed to asbestos for many years and never develop mesothelioma, while others cannot ever remember being exposed and are diagnosed decades later.

Risk Factors

Most of these studies do find a joint effect between asbestos exposure, smoking, and head and neck cancer. Regardless of exposure amount or duration, those who are exposed to asbestos and smoke are far more likely to develop the cancer than people exposed who never smoked.

Additionally, those who were previously diagnosed with any type of respiratory disease are at an increased risk of developing lung cancer. The three diseases most strongly associated with lung cancer were pneumonia, bronchitis, and emphysema. Fortunately, tuberculosis and asthma were not associated with lung cancer risk.

These diseases are medically defined under an umbrella term, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, which is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. As any other lung disease, the leading risk factor for COPD is smoking, followed by air pollution, second-hand smoke, dust, and chemical exposure. Other risk factors for COPD include obesity, high blood pressure, family history and high sodium intake.

It is worth re-stating that the only cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. Other types of cancer, such as esophageal, laryngeal, and pharyngeal cancer have strong associations to asbestos exposure as well. Some patients diagnosed with mesothelioma have no memory of ever being exposed to asbestos and think that they have no legal options because of this. We have a wide network of resources throughout the country that allow us investigate your history and find the source of exposure.

Our team of mesothelioma lawyers has over 30 years of experience fighting on behalf of cancer patients. If you or someone you love was diagnosed with a respiratory system cancer, contact our firm now even if you do not know if there was any asbestos exposure. It is a free phone call, and we never charge our clients anything unless we are successful on their behalf.

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