Exposure to asbestos causes malignant (cancerous) diseases such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, laryngeal cancer and ovarian cancer. Asbestos exposure also causes non-malignant (benign) chronic diseases, including COPD, pleural effusion, asbestosis and pleural thickening.

Asbestos is a known cause of both cancerous and noncancerous diseases. Other malignant diseases that may be linked to asbestos exposures include colon cancer, pharyngeal cancer and stomach cancer. All asbestos cancers develop over the course of years or decades.

Asbestos cancer forms when the fibers are inhaled or ingested and become caught in tissue. Multiple studies have shown there is no safe level of asbestos exposure. Asbestos diseases, particularly cancer, must be treated early for the best chance of long-term survival.


Mesothelioma cancer attacks the mesothelium or the lining around the organs in the chest cavity, lungs, heart or other body areas. There are four common types of mesothelioma:

  • Pleural – Cancer of the lining around the lungs (called the pleura)
  • Peritoneal – Cancer of the lining around the stomach (called the peritoneum)
  • Pericardial – Cancer of the lining around the heart (called the pericardium)
  • Testicular – Cancer of the lining around the testes (called the tunica vaginalis)

All forms of mesothelioma are primarily caused by asbestos exposure, which usually occurs in the workplace. Since many companies disregarded the dangers of asbestos exposure, asbestos trust funds have been established for victim financial compensation.

Lung Cancer

Asbestos is also a known cause of up to 20% of all lung cancer cases. While lung cancer and mesothelioma may seem like the same disease, they are different. Lung cancer, also called bronchogenic carcinoma, occurs when asbestos fibers become attached inside the lungs rather than in the pleural lining. Anyone who has been exposed to asbestos is at risk for developing lung cancer, including smokers.

Other Asbestos Related Cancers

Asbestos exposure is also connected to other types of cancer:

  • Bile duct cancer
  • Gallbladder cancer
  • Throat cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Laryngeal (voice box) cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Stomach cancer

Non-Malignant Asbestos Related Diseases

In addition, asbestos is responsible for diseases that are not cancerous and range in severity. Like malignant diseases, most patients do not experience symptoms until the late stages:


When asbestos fibers adhere to the small sacs in the lungs, called the alveoli, asbestosis develops. Asbestosis is an Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD) that causes scarring inside the lungs and gets progressively worse over time.  Symptoms include a chronic cough, shortness of breath and chest pains.


Some patients who have been exposed to asbestos develop chronic bronchial asthma. Researchers are continuing to explore a possible connection.


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is primarily caused by smoking, but exposure to asbestos can worsen COPD symptoms.

Heart Conditions

Pericardial mesothelioma attacks the layers of tissue that surround and protect the heart. Associated non-malignant conditions include heart failure, heart murmurs and an irregular heartbeat.

Pleural and Pericardial Effusions

Effusions – the accumulation of fluids between tissue membranes – cause chest pains, coughing and shortness of breath. While not life-threatening on its own, an effusion is a sign of a more severe disease. Doctors can drain the fluids to make patients more comfortable, but the effusion can return if the underlying problem is not addressed.

Other asbestos-related diseases:

In addition, asbestos is associated with other non-malignant conditions and diseases:

  • Atelectasis – Atelectasis occurs when all or part of a lung collapses due to a reduced exchange of gases.
  • Diffuse pleural thickening – Pleural thickening, or thickening of the lung lining, causes chronic breathing problems and coughing.
  • Interstitial fibrosis – Fibrosis (scarring) causes lung stiffness that makes breathing difficult.
  • Pleural fibrosis – Pleural fibrosis occurs when the pleura around the lungs thickens.
  • Pleural plaques – Calcified buildup on the pleural membranes often occurs after asbestos exposure.
  • Pleuritis – Also known as pleurisy or pleuritic chest pain, pleuritis occurs when the two surfaces of the pleura become inflamed, irritated and rub together.
  • Pulmonary fibrosis – Pulmonary fibrosis occurs when lung tissue becomes scarred and damaged, making it hard to breathe.

What Asbestos-Related Conditions are Eligible for Trust Fund Compensation?

Anyone exposed to asbestos has the chance of developing mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease. Trust fund compensation for asbestos-disease patients varies based on several factors, including:

  • Proof of disease – Asbestos victims must have medical documentation including imaging, bloodwork and other tests.
  • Proof of exposure – Proof of exposure can include work documents, witness affidavits and company memos.
  • Statute of limitations – Most states limit the number of years an asbestos trust fund claim can be filed after a diagnosis. Contact a knowledgeable attorney to find out the statute of limitations in your state.

If you meet these factors, you may be eligible for compensation

How to Get Compensation

When researchers discovered the link between asbestos and chronic diseases, the courts required responsible companies to compensate victims and their families. Substantial compensation through asbestos trust funds is available now.

Mesothelioma Fund was created to help victims and their families cut through the red tape for access to the trust funds as quickly as possible. We connect victims with legal resources to secure compensation from asbestos trust funds.

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Written by Richard Stewart

Writer, Content Coordinator and Outreach Director

Richard Stewart is a writer, content coordinator and outreach director with over 12 years of experience covering asbestos exposure, mesothelioma, and treatment options. He is passionate about spreading awareness for asbestos and mesothelioma and helping victims find the information and resources they need online.

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International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. “Asbestos in High-Risk Communities: Public Health Implications.” https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/18/4/1579/htm

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Learn About Asbestos. https://www.epa.gov/asbestos/learn-about-asbestos

American Lung Association. Asbestos. Retrieved from https://www.lung.org/clean-air/at-home/indoor-air-pollutants/asbestos