Asbestos is a naturally-occurring fibrous mineral, known to Greeks as miracle mineral due to its durability, flexibility, and resistance to heat and chemical damages. In the United States, the mineral is used in numerous industries and about 3,000 commercial products including: vinyl tiles, caulk, roofing and ceiling tiles, brakes shores, textiles, insulation, cement, and many more. It is used as fireproofing and insulating material in factories, schools, homes, and ships.
When whole and intact, asbestos is not harmful; but when damaged and disturbed, it releases microscopic fibers that can be inhaled or ingested by humans unknowingly. Once inside the body, the fibers lodge in the tissues and will cause inflammation that can result to malignant tumors.
Asbestos Causes Many Types of Cancer
Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer caused almost exclusively by asbestos exposure. The microscopic fibers lodge in the tissues and cause inflammation that will form to malignant tumors in the mesothelium (the protective membrane that surrounds the bodys most internal organs).
There are three types of mesothelioma. Pleural mesothelioma develops in the lining of the lungs and considered as the most common. Peritoneal and pericardial esothelioma affect the membrane that surrounds the abdominal cavity and the heart, respectively.
The prognosis is poor because symptoms typically appear during the advanced stages of the cancer. There is no cure but treatment options include: surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, alternative therapies, and participation in clinical trials.
Lung Cancer is not exclusively caused by asbestos. Other environmental factors (like cigarette smoke, pollution, and many more) are involved but asbestos exposure can hasten the development of the disease. However, there is some evidence that linked asbestos exposure to small-cell and non-small-cell lung cancer.
Laryngeal Cancer Medical cases have exposed that exposure to asbestos can cause cancer of the larynx or voice box. Symptoms may include: hoarse voice, sore throat, and pain/swelling in the ears. Prognosis largely depends on the stage and spread of the cancer.
In addition, medical researches studies have shown a link between asbestos exposure and other types of cancer in the following organs: kidney, colon, intestines, esophagus, and gallbladder.
Where Does Frequent Exposure to Asbestos Occur?
People who work or stay in places where high levels of airborne asbestos fibers most of the time are at higher risk to develop asbestos-related cancer. These occupations include: shipbuilding and shipyard, construction and demolition, drywall installation and removal, firefighting and fireproofing, production of certain textiles, and automotive brake repair.