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What other illnesses are linked to asbestos exposure?
Workers exposed to asbestos are five times more likely to develop lung cancer than people who have not been exposed. Smokers who are exposed to asbestos are at an even higher risk for lung cancer.
Inhalation of asbestos fibers causes scarring of lung tissue. The scarring impairs the lungs' elasticity, which makes it difficult for them to exchange gases inside the body. The result is an inadequate amount of oxygen in the blood which leads to shortness of breath. There are different degrees of asbestosis, ranging from mild to severe. The disease is also sometimes called diffuse interstitial pulmonary fibrosis, or pneumoconiosis.
The pleura is the thin membrane that lines the inside of the chest cavity and outside of the lungs and which allows the lungs to expand and contract. Asbestos exposure can cause this lining to calcify, or harden. Thickened areas are called pleural plaques. A person with pleural disease is at risk for developing more serious asbestos-related diseases.
Asbestos has also been associated with many other cancers, including cancer of the throat, testicles, colon and stomach.
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