Asbestos and Cancer

The link between asbestos and cancer has been known for decades. Asbestos fibers are indestructible, which seemingly made them great for use in building and construction. Unfortunately, if these fibers get in the air, humans can breathe them in. The fibers cannot be broken down by the body, and go on to slowly damage the body. Eventually, this damage may cause cancer.

The Link Between Asbestos and Cancer

Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral that has been in commercial use for over 100 years. Asbestos was used to build houses, ships, and other products because it is very durable and resists fire, water, and electricity. There are two main types of asbestos: amphibole and chrysotile.

The Dangerous Truth About Asbestos

Since the 1980s, many governments across the globe have discouraged the use of asbestos because a large body of scientific research shows that asbestos can cause people to develop cancer.

For decades, men and women worked to support their families at construction sites, mills, shipyards, plants, and other worksites. These workers never imagined their livelihood would put them at an increased risk of cancer.

Unfortunately, many labor jobs in the 20th century put workers in contact with asbestos products. Decades after the fact, these workers are now getting sick.

Even worse, many companies that manufactured asbestos-containing products knew of the dangers that asbestos posed but chose not to warn anyone. These companies prioritized profits over the safety of their workers and the public.

Their negligence and corporate greed are why thousands of men and women who developed asbestos-related cancer may now be eligible for compensation. Fortunately, Sokolove Law attorneys specialize in asbestos-related cancer cases. If your cancer is linked to asbestos, we can begin your free case evaluation today.

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How Asbestos Causes Cancer

The truth is: There is no safe level of asbestos exposure, and there never has been.

“Asbestos and all commercial forms of asbestos are known to be human carcinogens based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity from studies in humans.”

– National Toxicology Program, Department of Health and Human Services

When an asbestos-containing product or material is broken, disturbed, or destroyed, asbestos fibers are released into the air around them. If these fibers are breathed in or swallowed, they will enter the body and get stuck.

Since asbestos is incredibly durable, it is not possible for the body to break its fibers down. This means the fibers will not leave a person’s body once they enter. Even one single fiber can cause the rare cancer mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases, such as asbestosis or lung disease.

Asbestos fibers can get trapped inside:

  • One or both lungs
  • The protective lining of the lungs (the pleura)
  • The chest wall or protective abdominal lining
  • The heart’s protective lining
  • Other areas of the body, including the larynx and ovaries

Sadly, most people who are exposed to asbestos will not notice or feel any health effects at first. This is because asbestos-related diseases often take a few decades to develop. It typically takes between 20-50 years for cancer to develop after someone was first exposed to the carcinogen.

Early on, asbestos fibers will only cause mild irritation and inflammation. The problem lies in how long this inflammation persists. Asbestos fibers cannot be broken down or removed from the human body. As a result, the damage they inflict only worsens over time.

Long-term irritation from asbestos causes scarring, abdominal or chest pain, and fluid buildup in the affected areas. Eventually, this damage causes cells to mutate and grow at an out-of-control rate.

Asbestos Exposure Time

The longer you worked at a job where asbestos was present, the greater your risk of developing asbestos-related cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.

Types of Cancer Caused By Asbestos

Asbestos can cause different types of cancer to develop. The type of cancer that develops depends on where the asbestos fibers lodge themselves inside of someone’s body.


Malignant mesothelioma occurs when asbestos fibers get stuck in the lining of major organs. There are 4 known types of mesothelioma, and all of them are fatal.

Pleural Mesothelioma

This is the most common form of mesothelioma. It develops in the lining of the lungs.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma

This form of mesothelioma develops in the lining of the chest, causing fluid buildup and pain. Comparatively, it has a better treatment outlook than the other types. However, it is still a fatal disease.

Pericardial Mesothelioma

Pericardial mesothelioma forms around the lining of the heart, making it hard to treat properly. This is a very rare form of mesothelioma and is extremely deadly.

Testicular Mesothelioma

In very rare cases, asbestos fibers can attack the lining of the testes. Doctors are still learning about this form of mesothelioma.

Lung Cancer

If asbestos fibers get trapped in your lungs, they can cause long-term inflammation that leads to cancer. The two types of lung cancer are classified by cell type.

Small Cell Lung Cancer

This form of lung cancer is more aggressive, but it also responds better to treatment. Only 10-15% of all lung cancer cases are of small cell lung cancer.

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Non-small cell lung cancer makes up 85-90% of all lung cancer. This form of lung cancer doesn’t grow as fast. However, it is less responsive to current treatment options. There are a few different subtypes based on the shape and size of the cells.

Other Cancers

Asbestos fibers may settle in other areas of the body. For example, a person may cough up asbestos fibers that are stuck in their lungs. If they accidentally swallow the fibers, they can settle in other areas. Laryngeal, testicular, and ovarian cancer have also been linked to asbestos particles in some cases.

There is no way to cure any form of cancer caused by asbestos exposure. However, if caught early on, treatments can help control the spread of tumors and reduce cancer-related symptoms, including weight loss and shortness of breath.

Other Asbestos Cancer Risk Factors

Simply being exposed to asbestos is only one part of a much larger issue. While anyone who has been exposed to asbestos is at risk of developing cancer, some factors increase your risk.

These factors include:

  • Repeated exposure: Statistically speaking, people who regularly came into contact with asbestos fibers are at a higher risk of developing cancer. Repeated exposure typically comes from working at a certain kind of job site. However, it may also come from a school or home. The greatest risk is for those who were regularly exposed over several months or years.
  • Tobacco, Alcohol, and Drug Use: Though not direct causes of asbestos-related cancers, tobacco and drug use, smoking, and drinking alcohol, can increase a person’s odds of developing asbestos-related cancers when they have been exposed to asbestos fibers.

Questions About Your Asbestos Exposure?

To get your questions answered today, call one of Sokolove Law’s case managers. They can answer your questions and guide you towards medical and legal help. Call (855) 854-2504 or fill out the contact form.

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How Asbestos Cancer Is Diagnosed

In many cases, asbestos-related cancer may not be detected by doctors right away. This is because the cancers associated with mesothelioma may mimic other, more common illnesses. This can lead to serious health complications, as you may be treated for an illness you may or may not have.

Doctors will use X-rays, imaging tests like CT scans, and biopsies (where samples of tissue are studied) to see if cancerous masses are present.

If you are concerned about your health, here are some steps you should take:

  • See a doctor early: Even if you are not experiencing symptoms, it is a good idea to see a doctor early on. Make sure to tell them about your asbestos exposure history and other relevant health information. This way, they can take a proactive approach to your care.
  • Seek help from an asbestos law firm: If you have been recently diagnosed with asbestos-related cancer, an asbestos law firm can be an excellent resource. Asbestos companies have been ordered to set aside billions of dollars for those they have wronged. Asbestos attorneys know how to access these funds. With their help, you may be able to receive compensation. This compensation can help pay for medical treatments and safeguard your family.

Legal Help for Asbestos Cancer

If you or someone you love has developed cancer from asbestos, the time to act is now. Because asbestos-related cancers sneak up on those affected, many families are not able to prepare for the costs of treatments, medications, and surgeries that follow a diagnosis.

Working with an asbestos law firm can allow you more time to focus on your health and family. You also get the opportunity to keep your family secure through mesothelioma compensation. Asbestos law firms and attorneys know how to maximize the chances of getting the compensation you may deserve.

Trusted Legal Help

When you partner with Sokolove Law, you will work with an asbestos firm that has experience handling asbestos cancer claims. We do all of the heavy legal lifting so you can focus on the important things in life.

It is very important you work with a law firm that specializes in asbestos cases. General law firms will not have the legal insight to properly manage your case. You may not get all you deserve if you work with them.

To get started, call (855) 854-2504 or fill out our brief contact form. The case managers at Sokolove Law can answer your asbestos-related questions and put you in contact with a lawyer if necessary.

Author:Sokolove Law Team
Sokolove Law Team

Contributing Authors

The Sokolove Law Content Team is made up of writers, editors, and journalists. We work with case managers and attorneys to keep site information up to date and accurate. Our site has a wealth of resources available for victims of wrongdoing and their families.

Last modified: March 19, 2021

View 1 Sources
  1. “National Toxicology Program: 14th Report on Carcinogens.” National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,