While many people know of the connection between asbestos exposure and lung cancer, you may not realize that ingesting or inhaling asbestos has also been linked to kidney, or renal, cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates that 12,980 Americans die of renal cancer each year. Although you cannot protect yourself from everything that may cause kidney cancer, you can avoid asbestos to minimize that risk factor.
As well as asbestos, there are other risk factors that can increase your chance of developing kidney cancer. Other workplace hazards include cadmium, benzene, trichloroethylene, and some herbicides. Additionally, smoking and suffering from obesity can also increase your risk. Interestingly, however, the rates of kidney cancer have been rising since the 1970s. While this could be attributed to better cancer detection techniques, it could also be that people who were exposed to asbestos before it was banned are now developing this type of cancer.
The problem with asbestos is that it was a very popular material before doctors realized the dangers of the fibers. Although even the ancient Greek and Roman cultures utilized asbestos, it did not become widely-used until the Industrial Revolution. During that time, people noted the need for insulating materials for the engines and piping now in place in buildings and ships.
People turned to asbestos because it has amazing insulating abilities. Asbestos is part of the silicate family of minerals. Silicates are known for their ability to resist heat, flame, chemicals, and biodegradation. Besides these useful characteristics, asbestos was also helpful because it has high tensile strength and flexibility.
Due to these helpful properties, it is no surprise that asbestos became a staple for construction, automotive, shipping, and other industries. In building construction alone, asbestos could be found in the insulation, vinyl flooring, counter tops, roofing tar, and roofing tiles. Ships were built using asbestos insulation as well. Lastly, the automotive industry utilized this material for brake pads, brake shoes, clutch pads, and gaskets.
Asbestos can cause renal cancer because your body is unable to process the fibers. When asbestos particles are released into the air or water, you can inhale or ingest the fibers. Once in your body, they can become lodged in your organs or cycle around the bloodstream since your body cannot break them down. If they are in the blood, they can get caught in the filtering area of the kidneys. From here, they can become stuck in the kidneys and cause malignant tumors.
Kidney cancer can be especially dangerous because it is so close to the bloodstream. If the tumor in the kidney is malignant, it can break off and flow through the blood to another part of the body.