Asbestos Exposure Associated with Lung Cancers and Asbestosis
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was frequently used as a building material until the 1960s, when researchers began to study the link between the inhalation of asbestos fibers and serious illnesses. Since then, asbestos have been classified as a known human carcinogen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Many of those who are exposed to asbestos on the job develop malignant mesothelioma, a type of lung cancer that impacts the serous lining, or the lining surrounding the outside of the lungs. According to the National Cancer Institute, a history of asbestos exposure at work is reported in about 70 to 80 percent of all mesothelioma cases. A study conducted by the National Toxicology Program shows those who smoke and are exposed to asbestos have an increased risk of developing lung cancer that is greater than the individual risks from smoking and asbestos exposure added together.
Asbestosis is another asbestos-related condition that causes inflammation and eventually scarring of the lungs. Developing scar tissue may cause shortness of breath, coughing and chest pain. Although it may take years for asbestosis symptoms to develop, anyone who has come into contact with asbestos is at risk for the disease. Asbestosis may lead to failure of the lungs, and is often accompanied by mesothelioma and other lung cancers.
Asbestos-Related Health Concerns
- Malignant mesothelioma
- Pleural mesothelioma
- Lung cancer
Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML): Risk of Neurological Disease Associated with Raptiva
Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy is a rare, life-threatening disorder that damages the material (myelin) that covers and protects nerves in the white matter of the brain. PML usually occurs in people who have severely weakened immune systems and often leads to a permanent decline in neurological function. Symptoms may include headaches, vision problems, loss of language ability, memory loss, and weakness of the arms and legs.
On February 19, 2009, the FDA issued a public health advisory warning about occurrences of PML in users of the psoriasis drug Raptiva. Raptiva is a prescription drug that was withdrawn from the U.S. market by manufacturer Genentech after being linked to PML. According to Genentech, approximately 46,000 patients worldwide have been treated with the drug since its approval in 2003.
Health Risks Associated with Raptiva
- Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy
- Decline in neurological function
- Vision problems
- Severe headaches
- Weakness of arms and legs
- Memory loss
Angiosarcoma: Liver Cancer Associated with PVC Exposure
Angiosarcoma is a rare fatal cancer that affects the blood vessels of the liver. Symptoms can begin in soft tissues anywhere in the body, but often are detected in the liver and heart. The disease is often not detected until it has reached an advanced stage, leaving few options for treatment. Angiosarcoma has recently been linked to long periods of exposure to the toxic plastic substance Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC). Those who work in polymerization plants are particularly at risk for developing angiosarcoma, as are those who work with plastic building materials or products. Although the cancer is extremely rare, it impacts workers who have been exposed to PVC at a much higher rate than those who do not work with the plastic.
Leukemia Linked to Benzene Exposure
Benzene is a colorless and highly flammable chemical typically found in products that include glues, plastics, waxes, detergents, pesticides, and inks. It has also been used as an additive to gasoline, as well as a solvent to make other chemicals. Those who come into contact with burning coal or oil, pesticides, and hazardous waste areas often come in close contact with benzene. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services classifies benzene a known human carcinogen, citing long-term exposure to the chemical as causing leukemia.
Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)
Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), a cancer of the myeloid line of white blood cells, is frequently linked to benzene exposure. AML causes the rapid growth of abnormal white blood cells in the bone marrow, which eventually interferes with the production of normal blood cells. Symptoms include easy bruising, bleeding, and shortness of breath. AML is relatively rare, but can be fatal within a period of weeks or months if left untreated.
Chronic Lymphocitic Leukemia (CLL)
Chronic Lymphocitic Leukemia (CLL) has also been associated with benzene exposure over a long period of time. CLL begins in early forms of white blood cells that make up lymphoid tissue (lymphocytes), progressing at a slower rate than AML.
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