A long duration of asbestos exposure can cause inflammation and genetic changes that can lead to cancer. People with cancers associated with exposure to asbestos may have a higher risk of infection because of changes in the immune system that control their body's defense systems.
The risk of developing asbestos-related lung diseases increases with the duration and degree of exposure, and also depends on the type of asbestos fiber. The three main types of asbestos that have been used commercially are crocidolite (blue asbestos), amosite (brown), and chrysotile (white). Although there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos and all fiber types of asbestos are dangerous, there has been some discussion in the literature that blue and brown asbestos are more dangerous than white.
Asbestos was commonly used:
- in the building industry and many types of consumer goods
- in the manufacturing of plastics
- in the shipbuilding industry
- in the automotive industry for brakes and clutch pads
- in some paints, coatings, and adhesives
When tiny and sharp asbestos fibers lodge in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart, the immune system cannot get rid of them.
The damage caused by asbestos typically takes 10 to 40 years to manifest symptoms. When symptoms appear, they are often mistaken for those of other, less serious conditions. Asbestos victims often fail to make the connection between their current asbestos-related diseases and the exposure that may have occurred decades prior.
People with asbestos-related conditions are at increased risk of lung infections and recover more slowly.
They should get regular medical care, be treated promptly for respiratory infections and other breathing problems, and receive influenza and pneumonia vaccines after consultation with their primary physicians.
Why people with asbestos-related illnesses have a weakened immune system
A long duration of asbestos exposure can cause inflammatory responses and genetic changes that can lead to cancer. People with cancers associated with exposure to asbestos may have a higher risk of infection because of changes in the immune system that control their body's defense systems.
Cancer treatments can affect the immune system in different ways:
- Chemotherapy drugs designed to kill fast-growing cells may also attack fast-growing healthy cells, such as those found bone marrow, which produces immune cells, hampering their ability to protect you from illnesses, bacteria, and other threats.
- Any type of major surgery may put a burden on the immune system, exhausting its reserves to help prevent infection and heal wounds caused by the procedure.
- Radiation therapy. While cancerous cells are damaged by radiation therapy, this type of cancer treatment may also kill healthy cells and contribute to conditions that may lead to an increased risk of infection.
- Immunotherapy drugs are designed to boost the body's natural defenses by helping them to better recognize and attack cancer cells. However, certain types of immunotherapy result in the immune system attacking healthy cells, which can cause side effects.
If you have an asbestos-related illness and you're experiencing new symptoms or have questions about your immune system, be sure to contact your care team.
5 ways to boost your immune system to help fight cancer and improve recovery from treatment
A strong immune system is important as it can help the body fight the virus and prevent complications. Moreover, for people who already suffer from an asbestos-related disease, and have a weaker immune system, adopting means to boost it may prove vital. Here are several known methods of strengthening your immune system:
- Having a good diet - Diet can boost the immune system or allow nutritional deficiencies to weaken it and make a person more susceptible to disease. A healthy diet is a balanced one that ensures the right amount of all the necessary nutrients, vitamins, minerals, proteins, fibers, etc. Ideally, people with chronic respiratory conditions should opt for healthy foods that come from organic sources and have a varied diet including fresh fruit and vegetables, protein from meat or vegetables, fibers.
- Intake of vitamins and supplements - A wide variety of vitamins including Vitamin C, Vitamins B, Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Vitamin D are essential for a strong immune system. A healthy and balanced diet can ensure the necessary amount of these vitamins. Nonetheless, some of them may also be taken separately as supplements in case the person suffers a deficiency such as Vitamin D deficiency which is quite common, and it is caused by insufficient exposure to the sun. If you have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, talk to your doctor before taking any vitamins and supplements especially if you are following prescribed treatment.
- Exercise regularly - Regular exercise is recommended for a healthy lifestyle; it can protect the heart, prevent obesity, and, in general, keep disease at distance. Exercise contributes to a person's overall health and, implicitly, to their immune system. It also ensures a better circulation which promotes the activity of the immune system. Moderate exercise can mean as little as a 30 minutes-walk a day. Intensive workouts are not required in order to enjoy the benefits of exercise, and, especially if you have a respiratory problem, these may not be recommended. Ask your health specialist what type of exercise is more appropriate for you and follow his or her recommendation.
- Relaxation techniques to reduce stress - Stress is linked to a poor immune system because it prevents it from fighting antigens. When people are stressed, their body produces the stress hormone called corticosteroid which is linked to a decreased number of lymphocytes which makes the body more prone to infections. Therefore, reducing stress can help boost one's immune system and there are several methods of doing this. One of them is meditation which can calm the mind and help people feel more relaxed and detached.
- Having a good sleep routine - Sleep has proven healing powers. During sleep, the body regenerates and becomes stronger and more prepared to face stress factors. When asleep, the body produces a type of protein known as cytokines which protect it from infection and inflammation. Getting enough sleep is important in order to strengthen the immune system. Adults need to sleep between 7 and 9 hours per night.
We offer support to those who developed chronic diseases due to occupational exposure to asbestos
It is recommended that former asbestos-exposed workers be screened at least annually by a physician with expertise in the evaluation and management of asbestos-related lung diseases. Our staff, toxicologists, and medical experts offer free of charge local asbestos screenings to victims and their families.
You must have a history of asbestos exposure through your workplace or the military or you must have lived with someone that brought asbestos fibers home on their clothes and hair, subsequently getting a family member sick. We will examine your chest X-rays to see signs of asbestos exposure affecting your lungs, like pleural abnormalities, along with a series of other pulmonary tests, while considering your overall medical and employment history to determine compensation eligibility. We offer quality assistance for those exposed to asbestos and other toxins in an occupational setting and we work hard to obtain maximum compensation for them and their family members.