What Causes Mesothelioma?
Anyone who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma has probably already been told that they were likely exposed to asbestos, a hazardous and carcinogenic material that has been used in a wide variety of industrial and household products. In fact, exposure to asbestos is the only known cause of mesothelioma.
Asbestos becomes harmful when fibers are released into the air and then inhaled or swallowed, where they can accumulate in the mesothelial lining of the pleura (lungs), abdomen, heart or other vital organs. Though researchers do not know for certain how asbestos fibers trigger the cellular damage that leads to mesothelioma, the link between asbestos exposure and mesothelioma has been well-established in numerous scientific studies. Various health-related factors such as genetic predisposition and exposure to radiation can increase the risk of contracting the disease.
While there seems to be a clear relationship between the level and duration of exposure to asbestos and the likelihood of contracting the disease, even minimal exposure has been linked to specific mesothelioma cases, and any exposure to asbestos is considered unsafe.
Most People diagnosed with Mesothelioma worked at jobs where they were exposed to asbestos.
"Exposure to asbestos is the only known cause of mesothelioma."
Commercial mining and manufacture of asbestos began in the 1800s but expanded exponentially during World War II. It is estimated that millions of civilian and military workers have been exposed to asbestos since the 1940s. Production slowed dramatically in the 1970s as the health risks of asbestos became known, but thousands of products containing asbestos that were manufactured over the years remain potential sources of exposure today.
Asbestos mining and manufacturing operations constitute an obvious category of worker exposures, but other industries that used asbestos in the manufacture of various products do as well. Those most likely to be exposed to asbestos include those involved in commercial and residential construction and renovation; the automotive, insulation, heating and pipefitting trades; shipyard workers; and the military. Factory workers may also have been subjected to asbestos exposure depending on the type of products being manufactured in a given facility.
Though most people who contract mesothelioma were in direct contact with asbestos at work, that is not always true. Cases of patients whose exposure was the result of simply living near an asbestos mine or asbestos manufacturing plant have been well-documented – Libby, Montana serves as a particularly disturbing example, and the federal government has identified 28 manufacturing sites that are considered priorities for monitoring and evaluating environmental asbestos exposure. Moreover, the spouses of workers who were in direct contact with significant concentrations of asbestos have also contracted mesothelioma as a result of breathing fibers from the clothes of their loved ones.
If you believe that you have been exposed to asbestos or are experiencing symptoms associated with the disease, it is very important to closely monitor your health and consult your doctor. Early diagnosis of mesothelioma offers more options for treatment and better odds for long-term survival. The Mesothelioma Options Help Center can assist you in obtaining high-quality medical care, or you can speak right now with an experienced nurse to ensure you receive fast and appropriate care. For more information, please request our free mesothelioma information packet.