Asbestos related disorders

Author: Vaidehi Avadhani, M.D. (see Authors page)

Revised: 22 March 2018, last major update December 2013

Copyright: (c) 2003-2018,, Inc.

PubMed Search: Pleura[TIAB] asbestos related disorders

Table of Contents
Definition / general
Cite this page: Avadhani, V. Asbestos related disorders - general. website. Accessed March 23rd, 2018.
Definition / general
  • Asbestos causes localized fibrous plaques, pleural effusions, parenchymal interstitial fibrosis (asbestosis), bronchogenic carcinoma, mesothelioma, laryngeal carcinoma, possibly colon carcinoma
  • Exists in serpentine / chrysotile (curly, flexible) and amphibole (straight, stiff, brittle) forms; most asbestos in industry is serpentine but amphiboles are more pathogenic; link with mesothelioma is almost always with amphibole form
  • Chrysotiles usually are caught in upper respiratory passages, removed by mucociliary elevator; they are soluble and leached from tissue if they reach alveoli
  • Amphiboles go deeper into lungs; fibers > 8 mm and thinner than 0.5 mm are more injurious
  • Both types are fibrogenic; act as tumor initiator and promoter; toxic chemicals such as tobacco smoke may be adsorbed to asbestos fibers; asbestos fibers may also generate reactive free radicals
  • However, asbestos bodies are common in normals; present in 40% at autopsy in U.S. in lung smears
  • Asbestos may act by countering antioxidant effect of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) (Hum Pathol 2003;34:737)
  • In pleura, asbestos causes pleural plaques and mesothelioma
  • Relative risk (RR) compared to normal population: for bronchogenic carcinoma, RR is 5x, increasing to 55x for asbestos exposure plus tobacco use; for mesothelioma (pleural, pericardial, peritoneal), RR is 1000x, with no change for asbestos plus tobacco use