What Causes Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos, a naturally-occurring mineral made up of microscopic but strong, heat-resistant fibers.
Video Summary: Registered Nurse Amy Fair discusses how exposure to asbestos can cause mesothelioma. View Transcript.
What are the causes of mesothelioma?
Many times after being diagnosed with mesothelioma your physician may ask you if you have been exposed to asbestos. Asbestos is a causative factor for mesothelioma. Some of the imaging studies may show underlying pleural plaques which are indicated that they have been around asbestos and may show underlying asbestosis.
The risk factors for developing mesothelioma are working around asbestos-related products or being indirectly around those products such as secondhand exposures that are seen with wives that launder their loved ones’ clothes and have asbestos dust on them. So direct asbestos exposure, as well as indirect asbestos exposure, can be causative factors for mesothelioma.
If you have symptoms of mesothelioma or any asbestos-related disease, it’s important that you inform your doctor of your asbestos exposure so that appropriate testing can be done.
How Does Asbestos Cause Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma may develop after someone inhales or swallows asbestos fibers.
How Asbestos Causes Mesothelioma
Asbestos fibers are sent into the air through mining, building renovations, automobile or ship maintenance, normal wear-and-tear of asbestos products, etc.
If inhaled, these fibers can travel through small air passages and get stuck in the lining of the lungs (pleura). The fibers may also reach the lining of the abdomen (peritoneum) if swallowed.
Once inside the body, the fibers inflame and scar healthy tissue. Asbestos fibers are so small and strong that the body can never remove them or break them down.
Although exposure to asbestos is the only known cause of mesothelioma at this time, scientists are studying how other risk factors like genetic history may play a role.
Asbestos Exposure Levels and Mesothelioma
According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), higher levels of asbestos exposure increase your risk of developing malignant mesothelioma.
However, the organization also warns that there is no safe level of asbestos exposure. Some people have even developed mesothelioma after only one instance of asbestos exposure, according to the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD).