Can asbestos cause cancer

Last Updated on 12th August 2020 by

Can asbestos really cause cancer and disease?

So you know about the dangers of exposure to asbestos, but you may be asking yourself ‘can asbestos cause cancer?’

In this article, we highlight the diseases and different types of cancer that exposure to asbestos can cause that are least common.

You will no doubt have heard of the more common diseases such as mesothelioma and lung cancer.  But you may not be aware that asbestos can cause other forms of cancer and benign conditions, which we’ll focus on in this article.

For example, asbestos can cause cancer of the larynx (voice box ) and also cancer of the ovaries.

Infact, you may be surprised to learn that asbestos actually causes more benign conditions than it does cancerous ones.

Fortunately, the benign conditions are treatable with medication.

Even though some of these diseases are life threatening, it’s crucial to get an early diagnosis as it can help make all the difference.

Less common types of cancer that exposure to asbestos can cause

Here are 5 of the other types of cancer and diseases (other than mesothelioma & lung cancer) that exposure to asbestos can cause, their symptoms and the medications and treatments that are available:-

Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other female reproductive cancer, despite the fact that it only represents 3 percent of female cancer diagnoses.

Studies that took place in 2012 concluded that asbestos exposure can cause ovarian cancer.

In these studies, it was determined that women who had developed ovarian cancer had fathers or husbands that had jobs working with asbestos.

Nobody is exactly sure how asbestos exposure can cause cancer to the ovaries, but it is thought the fibers are inhaled and transported by the lymphatic system.

Talcum powder used around the genital area has also been shown to be a contributor.

There are various treatments available for ovarian cancer which include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy and hormone therapy.

15 percent of women are diagnosed at stage 1 and go on to have a 90 percent survival rate.  The overall survival rate for all stages and types of ovarian cancer is 45 percent.


Asbestosis is a disease which affects the lungs.  It takes time to progress and is caused by inhaling asbestos fibers.  The fibers gather in the lungs and cause scars on the lung tissue, which in time causes the lungs to harden.

This results in making breathing very difficult.  The scarring on the lungs inhibits the supply of oxygen to the blood stream, which is why sufferers very often need oxygen tanks.  Sadly, as of yet, there is no cure for asbestosis and there’s no way of slowing it down.

However, the majority of symptoms can be minimized with medication and also oxygen.

Laryngeal Cancer

One of the main contributors of Laryngeal cancer is smoking and drinking of alcohol.  But studies back in 2006 have shown that exposure to asbestos can also cause this type of cancer.

It is believed that when the asbestos fibers are inhaled that they lodge in the voice box on the way to the lungs.

Various treatments include chemotherapy, surgery and radiation therapy.

The good news is that if caught early enough then radiation therapy can provide a cure, and for those patients who have small tumors that haven’’t yet spread to the lymph nodes, the survival rates are between 75 and 95 percent.

can asbestos cause cancer

Benign Pleural Diseases

Mesothelioma is a condition that affects the lining of the lungs, otherwise known as the pleura.

It is the only asbestos related disease that affects the pleura.

Asbestos fibers can cause the layers of the pleura to inflame and rub against each other (pleuritis).

Medication can be taken to help ease the pain.

Pleural plaques develop as the scar tissue accumulates on the lungs.

Inflammation can occur as a result of being exposed to asbestos and in turn weaken the blood vessels, resulting in them leaking fluid.

A build up of fluid within the pleural layers (pleural effusion) can make breathing very difficult and painful.

There is a medical procedure that can help called talc pleurodesis which gets rid of fluid build up.

Pleural thickening is another condition caused by asbestos exposure.  This is where the pleura becomes hard and thick with scar tissue, resulting in lung function being compromised.

Medications that can help to ease the condition include bronchial dilation and steroids.

Clubbed Fingers

Interestingly, approximately 50 percent of people suffering with severe asbestosis go onto develop a condition known as clubbed fingers.

The tips of the fingers become swollen.

It is believed that clubbed fingers are caused as a result of asbestosis itself and not by inhalation of asbestos fibers.

Unfortunately, Clubbed fingers are a permanent condition.


Source of article:-


Duty holders and employers have a legal responsibility to manage asbestos in their building so as not to put employees at risk. Contact our Armco office for asbestos management and refurbishment/ demolition surveys on 0161 763 3727 or by visiting

Alternatively, for all your asbestos training needs call 0161 761 4424 or visit for more information or to book a training course.

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Published Dec 21, 2016

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