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Asbestos Cancer Causes


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Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral which is found in the environment as a fibrous substance. Asbestos is formed of such fine fibers that they can easily float in the air for hours. Asbestos cancer is the cancer which is caused due to the presence of asbestos in the human body in large concentrations. Asbestos cancer causes are mentioned below in detail.

Asbestos cancer is also referred to as Mesothelioma. There are three types of Mesothelioma depending on the deposition of the asbestos in the human body. When asbestos affects the lining of the lungs, it is known as pleural Mesothelioma. If the peritoneum is affected which is the lining of the abdomen then it is known as peritoneal Mesothelioma. In pericardial Mesothelioma, the pericardium i.e. the lining of the heart is affected.

Asbestos Cancer Causes

A few risk factors responsible for development of asbestos cancer are given below:

Exposure to Industrial Asbestos

Asbestos cancer generally occurs in older people. It develops almost 20 to 50 years after exposure to asbestos. This makes diagnosing the disease very difficult as the patient cannot relate to this exposure. During the time of industrial revolution, World War I, and World War II, the workers working in shipping and other industries were exposed to high amount of asbestos. Most of these workers had developed asbestos cancer later on in their lives.

Following are a few occupations which make the workers vulnerable to asbestos exposure:

  • Mining
  • Construction
  • Automotive industries
  • Marine
  • Shipping industry
  • Military occupation
  • Railroad construction
  • Aerospace
  • Chemical industry
  • Electrical industry
  • Powerhouse

Asbestos Cancer Causes People who work in the occupations mentioned above are found to be highly exposed to asbestos. Asbestos fibers are found in the air surrounding these industries. Workers and laborers who come in direct contact with asbestos fiber are more prone to its chronic effects. Asbestos fibers are so minute that they cannot be seen by naked eyes. The workers engage in cutting, scraping, digging, etc of the products which releases asbestos fibers in the air.

When several cases regarding asbestos cancer were reported in the last few decades, strict steps are taken to avoid any consequences on the workers. The workers have to wear filtering masks while doing work. They have to take shower and change all their clothes before going back from work. This is mainly because family members of these workers have also been found to be diagnosed with asbestos cancer. Thus, by taking the above measures, the worker as well as his family is prevented from asbestos exposure.

Exposure to asbestos found in household material

Several things found at home also contain asbestos. Thus, asbestos fibers can be released in the air and inhaled by the household members. A few of these things are mentioned below:

  • Asphalt flooring
  • Carpet
  • Heating devices
  • Insulation material
  • Chalkboards
  • Adhesives
  • Fire doors, curtains, and blankets
  • Plaster of paris
  • Cement materials
  • Paints

All these materials contain high quantity of white asbestos also known as chrysotile. The asbestos fibers are inhaled and they enter into the lungs. The asbestos can remain in the lungs for many years and also for the lifetime of the person. These asbestos fibers enter into the lung tissues and cause irritation. The body's immune system responds and attacks its own scarred tissues which form proliferation of cells. This is how cancer is caused by asbestos fibers.

Sometimes, asbestos fibers can be swallowed. These swallowed fibers reach the digestive tract and settle there. Over the years they tend to travel to the lining of the abdomen and cause peritoneal Mesothelioma. The inhaled asbestos can also settle on the pericardium (the lining of the heart) and cause pericardial Mesothelioma.

After rise in the number of people with asbestos cancer, several industries which use asbestos have taken measures to reduce its exposure. Like the hair dryers have already stopped using asbestos in its production.

Some other asbestos cancer causes are still under research and observation. Asbestos is also found to be related to other cancer especially ovarian cancer. However, efforts are still on, to reduce the exposure of people to high quantities of asbestos.

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