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Are Mesothelioma and Asbestosis the same thing?

One of the most common questions we get asked is whether Mesothelioma and Asbestosis are the same thing.

Mesothelioma and asbestosis are not the same at all.  They are very different conditions.  While both caused by asbestos, mesothelioma is a cancer which can develop from from small exposures to asbestos while asbestosis is a non cancerous lung condition that develops from extended periods of exposure to asbestos.

Both conditions are generally compensable.


Unlike asbestosis, mesothelioma is a cancer.  About 700 Australians develop mesothelioma each year.

Mesothelioma affects the protective membrane (known as the mesothelium) that covers most internal organs.  The most common location of mesothelioma is in the pleura (the covering around the lungs).  This mesothelioma is known as pleural mesothelioma.  Mesothelioma that develops in the peritoneum – the covering around the organs of the abdomen and pelvis – is known as a peritoneal mesothelioma.  About 10% of mesotheliomas are peritoneal mesothelioma.   Mesothelioma can also develop in other locations where there is mesothelium, such as to the tissue around the heart (known as the pericardium) or around the testicles.   Mesothelioma is these areas is very rare.

The only known cause of mesothelioma in Australia is inhalation of asbestos fibres.    Mesothelioma does not develop for many years after exposure – usually in the order of 15 years, although it may be as little as 7 years and as long as 50 years.  Any inhalation (even if only for a short period) of asbestos fibres may cause mesothelioma.  However, the likelihood of developing mesothelioma increases with the amount of fibre inhaled.

There is no cure for mesothelioma.

Almost everyone who develops mesothelioma is entitled to compensation.


Asbestosis, unlike mesothelioma, is not a cancer.  About 100 Australians are diagnosed with asbestosis each year although the number that develop the condition is likely to be higher than that.

Asbestosis is a chronic respiratory disease caused by long periods of exposure to asbestos fibres.   Over time the fibres cause inflation and scarring of the lung tissue.  In turn, this causes shortness of breath.

Asbestosis is a form of fibrosis of the lungs.  There are other causes of fibrosis of the lungs.  In order for a fibrosis of the lungs to be classified as asbestosis, a significant history of exposure to asbestos A(almost always in the course of employment) must exist.

Asbestosis tends to progress, albeit slowly over many years.  In some people it can remain stable for many years.

Almost everyone who develops asbestosis is entitled to compensation for it.

Other asbestos related diseases

In addition to mesothelioma and asbestosis, asbestos is also a cause of several other diseases.  These include:

Lung cancer – often acting in combination with smoking, asbestos induced lung cancer is the most common disease caused by asbestos.  In order for a lung cancer to be attributed to asbestos there must be a substantial history of exposure to asbestos fibres,

Asbestos Related Pleural Disease – Like asbestosis, asbestos related pleural disease is not a cancer.  It is a condition that causes pain and shortness of breath.

Cancer of the Larynx – Less common than mesothelioma or asbestos induced lung cancer, asbestos can be a cause of laryngeal cancer.

Other cancers – Exposure to asbestos has been linked to the development of a number of other types of cancer, including ovarian cancer and renal cell carcinoma.


In general terms, most sufferers are entitled to compensation for diseases caused by asbestos inhalation.  The difficulty may lie in proving that a disease (for example a lung cancer) was caused by asbestos in a particular person.

Representation that is experience and specialist is crucial.  Please contact Segelov Taylor by phone, email or on the website for more information.

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