Lung Cancer FAQ: Asbestos exposure

Q: "My father was exposed to asbestos at work when he was young, I heard asbestos is a risk factor for lung cancer. What is his risk?"

A: Asbestos exposure offers a risk of both lung cancer and mesothelioma, which is cancer of the outer lining of the lung and chest.

Asbestos was used in insulation and in the construction of buildings in the last 50-60 years. Asbestos becomes dangerous when it is damaged and releases a fine dust that is inhaled and settles in the lungs. It can take between ten and 60 years for cancer to develop after an asbestos exposure.
Smoking increases the risk of developing both types of asbestos-related cancers.

In the 1980's, asbestos was banned for future construction, and safety measures are required for the removal of asbestos from older buildings. Although the risk is elevated, most people exposed to asbestos do not develop lung cancers.

Answers provided by Providence lung cancer experts.

Last updated: August 2002