Asbestos Causing Other Cancers

Though asbestos is most frequently linked to malignant mesothelioma, it has also been blamed for a number of other types of cancer. Researchers have been perplexed by the mechanism by which asbestos causes cancer, as it is well known that asbestos fibers kill cells when they come into contact with them. They have determined that when this cell death occurs, an unusual process called “programmed cell necrosis” begins, leading to the release of a protein that generates an inflammatory response that causes cancerous cells to grow in the immediate vicinity of the initial exposure.

This explanation provides an answer not only to how malignant mesothelioma forms, but also a variety of other cancers that have been associated with exposure to asbestos. These include:

  • Lung cancer – Asbestos-related lung cancer occurs when asbestos fibers become embedded in the tissues of the lung. Asbestos-related lung cancer is far more common than malignant mesothelioma, and its risk increases dramatically if the person who has been exposed to asbestos is also a smoker. It has been estimated that smokers who are exposed to asbestos have a 50 to 84 times greater risk of lung cancer.
  • Laryngeal cancer – There is significant evidence that workers exposed to asbestos are at increased risk for laryngeal cancer, and that the longer the period of exposure and greater the concentration of exposure, the higher the risk of disease.
  • Ovarian cancer – There is significant evidence that women who are exposed to asbestos are at higher risk of ovarian cancer. Recent lawsuits suggest that women who used asbestos-contaminated talcum powder in their genital area have been particularly vulnerable to the condition.
  • Gastrointestinal cancers – Studies have shown that gastrointestinal exposure to asbestos via asbestos-contaminated water is linked to a greater risk for stomach cancer, colon cancer, and esophageal cancer.
  • Kidney and urinary tract cancers – Studies have shown a higher risk for kidney cancers and urinary tract cancers among those who work with asbestos, and autopsies have revealed asbestos fibers within the kidneys and urinary tract of those workers.

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