Extended exposure to products containing asbestos fibers could lead to cancer. Asbestos exposure may result from contact with chemicals or materials in the workplace or home. Cancer from asbestos typically occurs from inhaling asbestos fibers found in the chemicals or materials. Secondary contact with someone directly exposed to asbestos may also increase the risk of getting cancer.
Some studies showed a link between the presence of carcinogen — a cancer causing substance typically found in chemicals or the environment — in asbestos fibers and cancer. This has led some to believe that a person may get cancer from asbestos with frequent, extended exposure to its carcinogens. As a result, government health agencies in some countries have classified asbestos as cancer causing.
Many studies have shown that exposure may play a significant role in whether a person develops cancer from asbestos. Prolonged periods of inhaling the substance may increase the risk of getting cancer. Studies also found that a person might even develop cancer after a brief exposure to asbestos.
There are different types of cancers associated with asbestos exposure. Lung cancer occurs when malignant tumors are present in the lungs. These tumors are called carcinomas, and, like any cancer, result from abnormal cell growth. Mesothelioma is the most common form of cancer from asbestos exposure and may appear in the lungs or other parts of the body.
A person may get lung cancer from asbestos by inhaling asbestos fibers. Generally, a person who has developed cancer experiences swelling in the neck, becomes hoarse, or has constant pain in the chest. Some people may also experience severe coughing mixed with blood.
Asbestos in building materials used in commercial or residential structures may cause mesothelioma in some people. Some common symptoms of mesothelioma may include coughing, abdominal or chest pain, breathing problems, or weight loss. Symptoms may become more severe as mesothelioma progresses. Often, these symptoms may lead to a misdiagnosis of other respiratory illnesses or diseases.
Individual factors from lifestyle choices or preexisting health conditions may also increase the likelihood of developing cancer when combined with exposure to asbestos. If a person smokes, the chances of getting cancer from asbestos may increase. Having a form of lung disease before asbestos exposure may also increase the possibility of developing cancer.
Indirect contact with a person exposed to asbestos fibers can also lead to cancer. The asbestos fibers may attach to a person’s skin or clothing and be inhaled by persons in the near vicinity. Inhaling the fibers on the person may have the same effects as direct exposure.