10 Symptoms and Diseases Linked to Asbestos Exposure


The health hazards of asbestos exposure are many and varied. Those who work in the construction, renovation or ship repair industries are well aware of the health risks they face daily. The following symptoms and diseases share an origin in long-term asbestos exposure and should be monitored closely by those at risk.


This long-term, progressive lung disease is not cancer. Asbestosis is caused by inhalation of asbestos fibers that irritate and damage the lungs, promoting the growth of scar tissue. Scar tissue prevents oxygen and carbon dioxide from passing through the lungs properly. Asbestosis progresses slowly over many years.


This is a rare form of cancer; however, most cases are caused by asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma develops in the protective lining of many of the body’s internal organs. Symptoms include shortness of breath, chest wall pain and unexplained weight loss. A biopsy or cytology is needed to make a correct diagnosis.

Lung Cancer

The occurrence of lung cancer from asbestos exposure is usually increased by cigarette smoking. Symptoms of lung cancer include anemia, weight loss, labored breathing and a persistent cough. However, these symptoms are not always tell-tale signs of lung cancer. A doctor’s diagnosis will confirm if lung cancer is present.

Persistent Coughing

Coughing is one of the first signs of disease in the lungs. However, coughing is a symptom associated with many illnesses. A cough that gets worse over time or that produces blood or sputum should be promptly examined by a doctor for anyone with past asbestos exposure.

Blood in Sputum

As with coughing, the presence of blood in sputum can indicate a number of asbestos-related diseases. Those who have been exposed to asbestos in the past should not take this symptom lightly. A full medical exam will confirm if bloody sputum is the result of an asbestos-related condition.

Chest Pain and Tightness

Chest pains are characteristic of several conditions caused by asbestos. Again, those who have been exposed to asbestos should not take chest pains lightly. Chest pains may be caused by asbestosis or another related disease, making breathing difficult for anyone with these symptoms and conditions.

Unexplained Weight Loss

Sudden and unexplained weight changes can indicate various cancers, such as lung cancer or mesothelioma. Weight loss can also be a result of other notable symptoms, such as loss of appetite and anemia. However, these symptoms should be evaluated by a doctor, as they may not be asbestos-related.

Pleural Plaques

Pleural plaques are small fibrous or calcified thickened areas that typically do not produce symptoms in exposed individuals. They will be detected during a chest x-ray. If left untreated they can lead to become pleural thickening, which is also asymptomatic. Both should be treated to avoid future complications.

Asbestos Warts

Asbestos exposure not only affects the lungs and inner body. When fibers become lodged in skin, they may become overgrown, which will develop into small growths resembling callouses. Asbestos warts are benign; however, those who have been exposed should seek medical advice for a correct treatment plan.

Risk Increases for Cigarette Smokers

Cigarette smokers who have been exposed to asbestos in the past should exercise caution. Smoking raises the chances of developing an asbestos-related disease, such as lung cancer, mesothelioma or any other cancer associated with asbestos. Exposed smokers are encouraged to stop smoking to lower the risk of becoming sick in the future.

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