How Asbestos Causes Lung Cancer

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fiber that people have been mining for centuries to use in a wide variety of products. It is also a known carcinogen, which can be anything that has been proven to cause cancer.

Asbestos fibers are very small, sharp, and toxic to healthy cells. If asbestos is disturbed it is released into the air, where it gets breathed in by the people nearby. The asbestos fibers can get stuck in a person’s lung and over time mutate the healthy cells into cancer cells.

There is a long latency period for asbestos-caused lung cancer, meaning that it takes many years for it to develop. Patients who find out they have this condition may have been exposed to asbestos decades earlier.

Smoking and Increased Risk


Smokers who are exposed to asbestos are at higher risk to develop asbestos-caused lung cancer. Smoking is the number one cause of non-small cell lung cancers and it also weakens the cilia of the lungs.

The cilia are small hair-like structures that help keep lungs clean. Smokers are more at risk because their cilia are less able to clean the asbestos out of their lungs.