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Asbestos Lung Cancer

Asbestos related lung cancer is a rare form of lung cancer, usually diagnosed at a late stage due to the latency period of development and onset of symptoms.

When products containing asbestos are disturbed, tiny microscopic fibres are released into the air.  If the fibres are inhaled they can become trapped in the lungs, attaching themselves to the lung tissue.  Once the fibres have caused enough irritation, inflammation and genetic damage, tumour formation begins.  It can take between 15-35 years for the lung cancer to develop.

The link between asbestos exposure and lung cancer has been suspected from the 1930s, but was clarified in 1955 and in 1997 the Helsinki Criteria was established.

This criteria enables specialists to determine if lung cancer, along with other pleural diseases, may be asbestos related.  The first of the two criteria used to determine whether lung cancer may be asbestos related is that a minimum of 10 years must lapse from date of exposure and the development of lung cancer.  Once a person has satisfied the first criteria they must then fit one or more of the remaining criteria;

  • Diagnosis of asbestosis
  • Higher than normal asbestos fibres/bodies in the lung tissue
  • Higher than normal exposure to asbestos

There is a known link between smoking and those exposed to asbestos, in that a person’s risk of developing lung cancer increases by a factor of around 10 by smoking and 5 by asbestos exposure.

The effect of both smoking and asbestos exposure is cumulative and the risk of developing lung cancer is increased by more than 50 times.

Whilst many experts are of the opinion that asbestos exposure is a cause of lung cancer, particularly where there is evidence of past heavy exposure, the link between the two is still controversial in this county.

Those working in the following occupations have a greater risk of being exposed to asbestos and subsequently developing an asbestos related condition;

  • Construction workers
  • Insulation installer
  • Roofers
  • Tilers
  • Plumbers
  • Paper mill workers
  • Textile workers
  • Sheet metal workers
  • Mechanics
  • Shipyard and Shipping Industry workers
  • Power Station workers

Lung cancer sufferers who have worked in any of the above industries and who can demonstrate heavy exposure to asbestos should seek legal advice.

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