Can Asbestos Exposure Cause Sarcoidosis?

To date, there is not enough scientific evidence to suggest that asbestos exposure causes sarcoidosis.

However, the causes of sarcoidosis remain a mystery to the medical research community.  Sarcoidosis is an autoimmune disease, and it is generally accepted that the disease results from an inflammatory immune response to inhalation of a foreign substance, resulting in the growth of granulomas in various areas around the body—usually the lungs, lymph nodes, eyes and skin.

Recent studies of survivors of and responders to the World Trade Center emergency in 2001 have shown increased rates of sarcoidosis due to inhalation of unspecified “inorganic dust.”   Asbestos was used in the construction of the World Trade Center and surrounding affected buildings, and future research may reveal that asbestos was a primary or contributing compound in the inorganic dust that triggered sarcoidosis in patients.

Both sarcoidosis and asbestosis (a disease that has been proven to result from asbestos exposure) are both Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD), and thus share many features in common.   The two diseases are very often confused by medical professionals and diagnosticians, since both exhibit symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing, chest pain, and clubbing of the fingers, and symptoms of the two diseases can appear very similar on a CT scan.  Reports also exist of sarcoidosis and asbestosis co-existing in the same patient.

In short, more research is needed in order to clarify the relationship between sarcoidosis and asbestos exposure.