Asbestosis: A very serious degenerative disease of the lungs that slowly destroys them. It is caused by long-term exposure to asbestos and causes permanent disability to the respiratory tract. Lung cancer: Asbestos is one of the main causes of lung cancer among non-smokers. The incidence of lung cancer rises dramatically among smokers who are exposed to asbestos. Mesothelioma: A rare form of cancer that appears in the in the lining of the lungs or the abdominal cavity. It is a very dangerous, aggressive form of cancer with a poor prognosis. It is caused by exposure to asbestos, so people who have been exposed for various reasons are at a heightened risk of developing the disease.