Asbestos Cancer

For much of the 20th century, asbestos was used by manufacturers that developed products requiring heat and fire resistance. These companies hid and distorted the science showing a link between asbestos and cancer, particularly mesothelioma. As a result, if you developed cancer as a result of asbestos exposure, you may be entitled to compensation.

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Rae Theodore

Written by: Rae Theodore

Last updated:

Amy Garrett

Fact-Checked and Legally Reviewed by: Amy E. Garrett

What Cancers Are Caused by Asbestos?

Shockingly, while asbestos is still legal in the United States and many other countries, it has been classified as a human carcinogen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Exposure to any level of asbestos is hazardous and can lead to a number of diseases, including several different types of cancer. Mesothelioma — an especially deadly form of cancer with no cure — can develop as a result of inhaling or ingesting asbestos fibers.

Because asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral, the body cannot break asbestos fibers down. Instead, they remain in the body and irritate healthy tissue over time, causing tumors to grow. Mesothelioma develops in the thin, protective tissue that surrounds many of the body’s vital organs.

There are generally considered to be four types of mesothelioma:
  • Pleural mesothelioma: By far the most common type of mesothelioma, this cancer develops in the pleural lining surrounding the lungs.
  • Peritoneal mesothelioma: The second-most common type of mesothelioma, this cancer develops in the lining of the abdomen.
  • Pericardial mesothelioma: This form of mesothelioma develops in the lining of the heart and is far less common than the pleural or peritoneal versions, occurring in less than 0.7% of all mesothelioma patients.
  • Testicular mesothelioma: This form of mesothelioma develops in the linings of the testes. As with pericardial mesothelioma, testicular mesothelioma is rare, occurring in less than 1% of mesothelioma patients.

Unfortunately, mesothelioma is not the only asbestos cancer that can develop from breathing in asbestos fibers. In addition to mesothelioma, asbestos exposure has also been linked to:

  • Gastrointestinal cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Stomach cancer
  • Throat cancer

Asbestos and cancer are often associated with each other, but asbestos exposure may also cause other serious health issues and lung-related illnesses.

Asbestos-related diseases result from the inhalation or ingestion of airborne asbestos fibers, years or even decades after exposure. Because individual asbestos fibers are invisible to the naked eye, many individuals are often unaware of how, where, and when they were exposed. It’s not until symptoms of asbestos-related disease begin that people discover the true cause of their disease.

In general, most asbestos-related diseases fall into four broad categories:

  • Mesothelioma: This is a malignant asbestos-related cancer that develops in the lining of a person’s lungs, heart, abdomen, or testes.
  • Lung cancer: Asbestos-related lung cancer develops in a person’s lung tissue itself, as opposed to mesothelioma, which develops in the lining of the lungs.
  • Asbestosis: Asbestosis is a chronic lung disease marked by a painful scarring of the lungs.
  • Pleural disease: There are several different types of pleural disease that can develop as a result of asbestos exposure, including pleural effusions, pleural plaques, and pleural thickening.

It’s important to note that links exist between asbestos exposure and other types of cancer. Furthermore, research is ongoing and may uncover additional diseases linked to or caused by asbestos.

Who Is at Risk of Developing Asbestos-Related Cancer?

People who develop asbestos-related cancer may have been exposed to asbestos in their communities, homes, workplaces, or during military service. Many individuals develop mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases from prolonged exposure to this dangerous mineral, often due to their past work history.

The following professions are known to have higher rates of asbestos-related diseases:

  • Aircraft mechanics
  • Auto mechanics
  • Boilermakers or tenders
  • Cabinet makers
  • Carpenters
  • Construction workers
  • Custodial workers
  • Electricians
  • Firefighters
  • Manufacturing plant employees
  • Military service members and veterans
  • Millers
  • Miners
  • Pipefitters
  • Plumbers
  • Railroad workers
  • Refinery workers
  • Shipyard workers
  • Welders

(Please note: The above is not a complete list. Any worker who has gotten ill from occupational asbestos exposure may be eligible for compensation due to their illness.)

Family members of workers who were in the above industries are also considered at-risk. Known as “take-home” or “secondhand” asbestos exposure, family members of those who worked in higher-risk occupations may have been exposed to asbestos fibers that clung to their loved one’s clothing.

How Much Asbestos Exposure Causes Cancer?

As noted by global health institutes such as the World Health Organization (WHO), there is no safe level of asbestos exposure, and all forms of asbestos are carcinogenic to humans.

Generally, those who have experienced prolonged exposure to asbestos run a higher risk of developing asbestos cancer, but any individual exposed to asbestos — regardless of length of time — could develop mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease.

Asbestos cancer does not only impact workers who handled raw asbestos or worked with asbestos-containing products directly. Many homes built before the 1980s still contain asbestos. When asbestos-containing products break down or are otherwise disturbed, asbestos fibers can be released, posing a health risk to anyone nearby.

Those who have developed asbestos cancer or another asbestos-related disease should seek assistance from an asbestos cancer attorney as soon as possible. Money from an asbestos cancer lawsuit can help pay for medical costs, loss of work or income, and pain and suffering.

To learn more, or to find out if you may be eligible for compensation, contact today.

What Are the First Signs of Asbestos Exposure?

Asbestos exposure can cause a wide array of illnesses, all of which come with their own set of symptoms. As with all diseases, early detection is a person’s best defense against serious or fatal illness. Anyone experiencing symptoms should seek medical attention right away.

Mesothelioma Symptoms

Mesothelioma can be difficult to diagnose, often because its symptoms can seem like those of the common cold or flu. Because it can take decades for mesothelioma to develop, most people don’t immediately think they have asbestos cancer upon experiencing mild symptoms.

But mild symptoms may be masking something quite deadly, which makes it all the more important for individuals with a history of asbestos exposure to tell their doctors and seek immediate medical attention should they start experiencing symptoms that are commonly associated with mesothelioma.

The main symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include:

  • Blood clots
  • Chest or lower back pain
  • Cough
  • Coughing up blood (also known as hemoptysis)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fever
  • Hoarseness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling of face or arms
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Unexpected weight loss

The main symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Abdominal swelling or fluid buildup
  • Constipation
  • Nausea or vomiting

Lung Cancer Symptoms

Common symptoms of asbestos-related lung cancer include:

  • Bloody cough
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath/
  • Trouble breathing
  • Wheezing

Asbestosis Symptoms

Symptoms of asbestosis include:

  • Chest tightness or pain
  • Clubbing (wider and rounder than normal fingertips and toes)
  • Dry cough (often persistent)
  • Dry, crackling sound in lungs upon inhalation
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weight loss from lack of appetite

Pleural Disease Symptoms

Pleural diseases include a range of different illnesses, which may present a number of different symptoms, including:

  • Chest pain
  • Coughing
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Inability to take deep breaths without pain
  • Trouble breathing

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms — no matter how mild they may seem — you should speak with your doctor immediately. Your physician may be able to run diagnostic tests to determine if you have an asbestos-related disease, or refer you to a specialist who can.

How Long Does It Take Asbestos Cancer to Appear?

Asbestos cancers like mesothelioma and lung cancer take decades to develop. This means symptoms of asbestos cancer may only begin to appear 10-50 years after exposure.

Because asbestos-related diseases can take such a long time to appear, it’s vital that anyone who has a history of asbestos exposure — whether through work or secondhand exposure — share this information with their health care providers.

Sadly, it’s often the case that mesothelioma is only discovered after the cancer has progressed into its advanced stages, making it extremely difficult and costly to treat.

Can I Sue for Asbestos Cancer?

Individuals who have developed an asbestos cancer (or their family members or estate representatives) may be able to file a claim against the manufacturers of asbestos-containing products responsible for causing their disease.

Asbestos cancer compensation may be available to victims of mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease through:

  • Mesothelioma settlements
  • Mesothelioma verdicts
  • Asbestos trust funds
  • VA benefits

The vast majority of mesothelioma lawsuits end in a settlement agreement reached between the victim (plaintiff) and the asbestos product manufacturers (defendants) before going to trial. Some mesothelioma cases do proceed to trial before a judge and jury, after which the jury will deliver a verdict.

Depending on their asbestos exposure history, qualified individuals may be able to access money from asbestos trust funds — worth an estimated $30 billion — without having to file a lawsuit.

Veterans with asbestos cancer may be able to obtain compensation and other benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), in addition to filing a lawsuit and/or a claim with an asbestos trust fund.

Who Is the Best Asbestos Cancer Lawyer?

The best asbestos cancer lawyers often work with well-established law firms that can offer you the best advantages in seeking justice and compensation.

If you are considering working with an asbestos cancer lawyer, you should only choose an attorney who has the following qualities:

  • Experience: Only lawyers or firms with several years’ if not decades’ worth of experience in asbestos litigation should be considered for your case.
  • Resources: The top asbestos cancer attorneys in the country have access to a wealth of resources that can be leveraged for your case, including information on job sites known for asbestos exposure, and relationships with medical experts.
  • Success: The best asbestos cancer lawyers have secured hundreds of millions — or even billions — of dollars for their clients over the span of their careers. has working partnerships with top asbestos cancer attorneys across the country. Contact us today to see how we may be able to help.

Amy Garrett

Fact-Checked and Legally Reviewed by: Amy E. GarrettPartner

  • Lawyer
  • Editor

Amy Garrett is a partner at Simmons Hanly Conroy with more than 22 years of litigation experience. Amy has helped the firm secure billions of dollars in settlements and verdicts for clients. Over the past two decades, she has gained a reputation as a litigator who advocates for her asbestos and complex litigation clients both inside and outside the courtroom.

Rae Theodore

Written by: Rae Theodore

Rae Theodore is a writer and editor with more than 30 years of experience in legal publishing. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Pennsylvania State University.

  1. American Cancer Society. “Signs and Symptoms of Mesothelioma.” November 16, 2018. Retrieved February 20, 2022 from
  2. American Lung Association. “Asbestosis Symptoms and Diagnosis.” March 24, 2020. Retrieved February 20, 2022 from
  3. Mayo Clinic. “Asbestosis: Symptoms and Causes.” February 11, 2022. Retrieved February 20, 2022 from
  4. National Institutes of Health (NIH). “Asbestos Exposure and Cancer Fact Sheet.” November 29, 2021. Retrieved February 20, 2022 from
  5. National Institutes of Health (NIH). “Pleural Disorders.” October 15, 2019. Retrieved February 20, 2022 from
  6. World Health Organization (WHO). “Asbestos: Elimination of Asbestos Related Diseases.” February 15, 2018. Retrieved February 20, 2022 from
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