Exposure to asbestos, particularly members of the amphibole subgroup (crocidolite, amosite), is associated with the development of malignant mesothelioma and lung cancer. Although management of asbestos in buildings and increased regulation of asbestos in workplace settings are viable approaches to the prevention of disease, the prognosis of asbestos-associated tumors is generally dismal. Moreover, although a vast amount of information is available on the responses of cells and tissues to fibers, understanding the pathogenesis of asbestos-associated malignancies is hampered by the complexity of and differences between various fiber types. Multiple interactions between components of cigarette smoke and asbestos may be important in the development of lung cancer. In this article, the general properties of asbestos fibers will be discussed with an emphasis on chemical and physical features implicated in tumorigenesis. We will then provide a brief overview of the clinical features and treatment of cancers associated with exposure to asbestos. Finally, we will review recent experimental data providing some insight into the cellular and molecular mechanisms of carcinogenesis by asbestos.