There are numerous conditions that affect the lungs, including cancer, asbestos, mesothelioma, emphysema, and COPD. Many of these are caused, at least in part, by asbestos exposure. Smoking is also a significant risk factor in the development of all these lung conditions. Many people suffer from both emphysema and mesothelioma at the same time, although the conditions are wholly different.


Emphysema is a chronic, progressive condition of the lung. It stops the tissue of the lung from retaining its shape and also decreases overall lung function. This means sufferers experience severe shortness of breath. In a healthy lung, the alveoli (small air sacs) transfer the oxygen out of the air we breathe into our bloodstream. When the walls of the alveoli break down, making them larger and less effective, people suffer from emphysema. Emphysema is a symptom of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).

Because emphysema is a progressive disease, early symptoms are often mild and overlooked. Shortness of breath while exercising is a warning factor. However, as it progresses, even light exercise such as walking in the house causes people to lose their breath. Eventually, people experience shortness of breath even when they are at rest. Most people also experience fatigue, frequent colds, coughing and wheezing.

A physician can listen to a person’s lungs and order a chest x-ray to determine whether or not emphysema is present. If they suspect it is, a blood test will be requested, which measures carbon dioxide and oxygen in the blood. They may also perform a spirometry test.

Emphysema is mainly caused by smoking. However, it is possible that long term exposure at home or at work to environmental fumes and gases can also be the cause, as well as secondhand smoke and pollution. Very rarely, people lack alpha-1 antitrypsin, which is a gene, and they will also develop emphysema.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for emphysema or any of the COPD conditions. However, the symptoms can be managed and it is possible to stop the condition from progressing further. Quitting smoking is the most important thing of all, but so is making sure that you consume a healthy, nutritious, and balanced diet. People should also slowly build up their fitness levels and ensure they do not come close to fireplace smoke, secondhand smoke, or any other environmental pollutants.

Some medication may also help, particularly steroids that can help strengthen the lungs, anti-inflammatory medication to help reduce pain, and bronchodilators to help keep the airways open. If the condition has progressed further, oxygen therapy or a breathing machine may also be required. Usually, antibiotics will be prescribed preventatively and, in some cases, surgery may be offered in order to remove part of the lung. In so doing, the remaining parts of the lung can function better. In the most serious circumstances, a full lung transplant may be considered.

Emphysema can also bring about a number of complications, which include osteoporosis, malnutrition, and pneumonia. It is very important, therefore, that you seek medical attention if you suspect that you have emphysema, or if you know you have it but you feel it is not being managed properly. Someone with emphysema has to be actively involved in improving their health.


Mesothelioma is a form of cancer found, in most instances, on the lining of the lungs. It is caused by asbestos exposure and is a condition with a very poor prognosis. One of the reasons for this is because the condition is usually not spotted until it is in very advanced stages. It also has a long latency period, with most people only developing the condition some 50 years after they have been exposed to asbestos.

So what is the link between mesothelioma and emphysema, other than that both conditions affect the lung? Interestingly, this is something that medical professionals are currently studying in various clinical trials. To date, it has already been determined that those who have had heavy exposure to asbestos are more likely to develop emphysema. This was found in a study in Finland.

The Link Between Mesothelioma and Emphysema

Research has long proven that asbestos fibers often cause fibrosis of the lung. However, there isn’t much knowledge yet on what their role is in the development of emphysema. In a study, scientists looked at the relationship between emphysema and heavy exposure to asbestos. To do this, they used HRCT (high resolution computed tomography) testing. Some 600 construction workers, each with an occupational disease related to asbestos exposure and all smokers, were tested. First, they were put through a full CT test, and this enabled researchers to score them on their emphysema subtypes.

The subtypes that were determined include:

  • Bullous emphysema
  • Panlobular emphysema
  • Paraseptal emphysema
  • Centrilobular emphysema

Participants were scored using a 0 to 5 scale. The total of these scores was calculated for each participant, and this provided the emphysema scores. A general linear model was also created for each participant, which demonstrated their asbestos diagnosis, pack-years, age, exposure duration, and occupation. It was determined that the reliability of both scoring systems was very good.

What the research demonstrated was that those who had an asbestosis diagnosis were more likely to also have emphysema. It was also common in those who had the highest levels of asbestos exposure. However, researchers agree that further research must be completed to determine exactly what role asbestos plays in the development of emphysema.

There are many reasons as to why this type of research is important. At present, it is agreed that the link between asbestos exposure and COPD and related conditions is weak, with most agreeing that COPD conditions, including emphysema, are caused by smoking. It matters because those who want to put forward a claim relating to health problems developed due to asbestos exposure in the workplace currently do not have a case to be made. Rather, a judge will determine that COPD and emphysema was not caused by asbestos exposure, but rather by environmental pollutants, particularly if the claimant is also a smoker.

Get Immediate Help Now

If you or someone you love has been exposed to asbestos and now face a condition such as Mesothelioma, lung cancer or asbestosis, contact us immediately to speak with a specialist who will help guide you through your options, both legally from a compensation standpoint and medically should you have questions.