Asbestos use was widespread in the 1900s, and products containing this material were abundantly present onboard Navy ships built for the WWII war effort - moreover, the hazardous material contaminated shipyards and naval bases for most of the 20th century.
Long-lasting occupational exposure to asbestos is responsible for 20% of former industrial workers and 30% of veterans struggling today with severe asbestos-related diseases as an outcome of their interaction with this highly toxic mineral, among them skin cancer. Asbestos exposure may lead to the development of malignant tumors within decades from the first encounter with the hazardous material.
Asbestos fibers' structure and size allow them to quickly become airborne when disturbed and float in the air for hours. It's the powdery dust many veterans and workers remember. Lungs are primarily affected, as the microscopic particles are easily inhaled. Once in the body, they trigger the immune system by getting caught and embedding themselves into the lining of major organs. The process slowly leads to chronic inflammation and tissue scarring that will eventually cause cell mutation and tumors that tend to become malignant over time and evolve into asbestos cancers such as:
- urogenital cancer
- bronchial cancer
- lung cancer
- gastrointestinal cancer
- pharyngeal cancer
- colorectal cancer
- laryngeal cancer
- esophageal cancer
Former Navy service members diagnosed with cancer are eligible for an expedited claims process and may qualify for compensation if they have proof of asbestos exposure and their medical records state a malignant condition listed above.
Contact With Asbestos Fibers Behind the Development of Skin Cancer
One of the consequences of working with or being around asbestos is skin cancer, the most common cancer diagnosed in the U.S. Although more research is necessary to pinpoint the exact process, the medical evidence shows that frequently touching asbestos without protective gear puts individuals at risk of developing skin lesions like corns or small warts after direct contact with the fibrous mineral.
A case study of workers installing amosite insulation on ships revealed that handling the fibrous mineral with bare hands may lead to skin lesions. Nearly 60% of these people worked in direct contact with asbestos and had one or more lesions, mainly on the hands. All workers with injured hands experienced a pricking sensation and the feeling of a small splinter-like foreign body in their skin: a strong indication that the lesions were caused by asbestos fibers penetrating the skin.
On Navy ships, routine repair and maintenance tasks exposed veterans to hazardous materials, among them asbestos. It didn't help that it was customary to work without protective equipment and that a dusty work environment was typical. Daily tasks onboard naval vessels often included:
- ripping and replacing asbestos lagging
- drilling into asbestos-containing products during repair
- sanding asbestos materials during maintenance
Asbestos fibers are highly toxic and, thus, irritating to the skin, and the lesions that occur after contact produce symptoms associated with asbestos warts:
- burning or itching
- sharp pain
- constant tingling
- skin redness and rashes
Over time, these skin lesions will likely become malignant due to a mutation of the BAP1 gene. This gene mutation indicates that a person has a high predisposition to develop mesothelioma and other cancers, among them skin cancer - an abnormal cell growth in the epidermis, our outermost skin layer. Skin cancer is usually caused by unrepaired DNA damage that facilitates mutations and is categorized into three major types:
Basal cell carcinoma - is the most common form of skin cancer and the most frequently occurring. Because this type of carcinoma grows slowly, most are curable and cause minimal damage when discovered and treated early. It may appear in the shape of:
- a pearly or waxy bump
- a flat, flesh-colored, or brown scar-like lesion
- sore bleeding or scabbing that heals and returns
Squamous cell carcinoma - is the second most common form of skin cancer, known for the accelerated abnormal growth of the near-the-surface cells of the skin. It may have the form of:
- a firm, red nodule
- a flat lesion with a crusted surface
Melanoma - is the most serious type of skin cancer, developing in the cells that produce melanin, the pigment responsible for skin color. It usually causes cause dark bruises on palms, soles, fingertips, toes, or mucous membranes lining the mouth, nose, vagina, or anus. Melanoma produces typical signs such as:
- a minor lesion with irregular borders and red, pink, white, or blue-black portions
- a more prominent brown spot with dark speckles
- an itching or burning painful lesion
- a mole changing color, size, or feel
- a bleeding mole
The diagnostic process of skin cancer consists of an in-depth consultation with the dermatologist, who will identify the disease by asking about the changes in moles, freckles, or other skin spots. Before biological tests, a visual examination of all of the skin is necessary, including:
- palms of the hands
- soles of the feet
- between the toes
- around the genitals
- between the buttocks
If there's a suspicion of skin cancer, further investigation will involve a biopsy performed by a specialist who will remove a sample of tissue and examine it under a microscope.
Asbestos Diseases Are Often Misdiagnosed
Illnesses related to asbestos are complex due to biological processes interacting on several levels, like response to toxic elements, genetics, and immune reaction. As a result, doctors often misread the symptoms and misdiagnose these diseases. To avoid such a scenario, veterans should request a second or third doctor's opinion outside the VA to be sure they've received an exact diagnosis and the appropriate treatment. Former service members can significantly help a correct evaluation by being open about their military service. Mentioning the chances of asbestos exposure during service could help in discovering non-cancerous diseases like:
- pleural effusion
- pleural thickening
- pulmonary fibrosis
- lung nodules and spots
- chronic bronchitis
- rounded atelectasis
- pleural plaques
Even though these illnesses don't qualify veterans for compensation, they should be regularly checked, as they tend to develop into cancer. Chest X-rays and breathing tests can help discover them evolving into malignant conditions early on, and a cancer diagnosis will qualify veterans for compensation.
Former Service Members Who Have Asbestos-Related Cancer May Be Eligible for Compensation
Veterans of the U.S. Navy who served on the vessels built before the 1980s risked exposure to asbestos because of the mineral's abundant use in building naval ships. Former Navy personnel diagnosed with cancer due to asbestos exposure during service are entitled to monetary compensation, are eligible for filing claims, and may receive benefits from the asbestos trust funds and the Veterans Affairs. In the case of skin cancer, even if veterans are diagnosed with this malignancy and have a history of asbestos exposure, they're not eligible for compensation unless they have a disease that qualifies them for filing a claim, like the cancers mentioned above.
If you wish to commence the legal procedure necessary to receive the deserved indemnification, we can help by connecting you with legal experts experienced in asbestos claims.