What are the Causes of Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is caused by asbestos exposure when people inhale or consume asbestos dust and fibers. These asbestos fibers can become lodged in the lining of the lungs or abdomen and cause tumors to grow. Most people were exposed to asbestos at their jobs. Asbestos was used in a variety of materials because of its heat-resistant properties. Family members were also at risk for second-hand asbestos exposure when asbestos fibers and dust were transported home on workers’ clothing and boots. Military members make up a large percentage of mesothelioma patients because the military used asbestos in vehicles, barracks, ships, aircraft and buildings.
What are Risk Factors for Mesothelioma?
Doctors and scientists have determined that asbestos causes mesothelioma, however there are other risk factors that play a role in whether individual will develop the disease. The risk factors listed below increase a person’s chances of developing mesothelioma:
- Length of exposure to asbestos
- Your occupation
- How much asbestos dust and fibers inhaled or consumed
- Type of asbestos
- Occupational conditions
Prior to the asbestos regulations put in place during the 70s and 80s, asbestos exposure in the workplace was a major cause of people developing mesothelioma. If you know you were exposed to asbestos in the workplace, then you need to provide those details to your physician. Inside the workplace there were a number of factors that could increase the risk for asbestos exposure. They are:
- Environment and weather – If the area was damp or wet, then the amount of asbestos in the air would be limited. If the area was dry, then the amount of asbestos in the air would be high.
- Working conditions – If the area was confined and small with limited ventilation, then a worker would be exposed to higher levels of asbestos.
- Type of work being done – if the work was strenuous and caused the worker to breathe heavily, then this could increase the amount of asbestos inhaled.
Who is at Risk of Being Diagnosed with Mesothelioma?
The majority of people diagnosed with mesothelioma are men over the age of 65. Asbestos was used in industrial jobs and the military, both of which had a high population of male participants. These are the people who are most at risk:
- Men are more likely to be diagnosed with mesothelioma.
- Individuals older than 65 years of age.
- Military veterans have been exposed to asbestos more than any other group.
- Industrial workers such as mechanics, pipefitters, foremen, laborers and many more were exposed to asbestos on a daily basis.
- Construction workers who came into contact with asbestos in buildings where they worked.
- Firefighters deal with asbestos when they are battling fires or breaking down buildings, causing asbestos to be released into the air. Their protective equipment also contained asbestos because of its fire-resistant capabilities. Firefighters also were exposed to asbestos after the 9/11 attacks.
- Individuals who dealt with piping insulated with asbestos.
- Shipbuilders, shipyard workers and sailors had a high chance of being exposed to asbestos due to the materials used and the confined spaces where they worked.
How Does Asbestos Cause Mesothelioma?
When microscopic asbestos fibers and dust are inhaled, these fibers can lodge in the lining of the lungs and chest cavity. The most common form of mesothelioma is pleural mesothelioma, which is a cancer in the thin lining around the lungs. When asbestos is ingested it can become lodged in the lining around the abdomen, which is called peritoneal mesothelioma. If asbestos is able to get into the blood stream, then it may become lodged in the lining around the heard, which is called pericardial mesothelioma. The symptoms don’t appear until later stages of the cancer, so it is very difficult to catch mesothelioma in its early stages. The latency period also is very long, so there is a large gap of time between when an individual is exposed to asbestos and when they develop mesothelioma.