Asbestos exposure: The primary risk factor for mesothelioma
Asbestos is a mineral that's found naturally in the environment. Asbestos fibers are strong and resistant to heat, making them useful in a wide variety of applications, such as in insulation, brakes, shingles, flooring and many other products.
When asbestos is broken up, such as during the mining process or when removing asbestos insulation, dust may be created. If the dust is inhaled or swallowed, the asbestos fibers will settle in the lungs or in the stomach, where they can cause irritation that may lead to mesothelioma. Exactly how this happens isn't understood. It can take 20 to 40 years or more for mesothelioma to develop after asbestos exposure.
Most people with years of asbestos exposure never develop mesothelioma. And yet, others with very brief exposure develop the disease. This indicates that other factors may be involved in determining whether someone gets mesothelioma or doesn't. For instance, you could inherit a predisposition to cancer or some other condition could increase your risk.
Factors that may increase the risk of mesothelioma include:
Oct. 23, 2015
- Personal history of asbestos exposure. If you've been directly exposed to asbestos fibers at work or at home, your risk of mesothelioma is greatly increased.
- Living with someone who works with asbestos. People who are exposed to asbestos may carry the fibers home on their skin and clothing. Exposure to these stray fibers over many years can put others in the home at risk of mesothelioma. People who work with high levels of asbestos can reduce the risk of bringing home asbestos fibers by showering and changing clothes before leaving work.
- A family history of mesothelioma. If your parent, sibling or child has mesothelioma, you may have an increased risk of this disease.
- Malignant pleural mesothelioma. Fort Washington, Pa.: National Comprehensive Cancer Network. http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/f_guidelines.asp. Accessed Sept. 17, 2015.
- Niederhuber JE, et al., eds. Diseases of the pleura and mediastinum. In: Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier; 2014. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Sept. 17, 2015.
- Broaddus VC, et al. Pleural tumors. In: Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2015. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Sept. 17, 2015.
- Chekol SS, et al. Malignant mesothelioma of the tunica vaginalis testis: Diagnostic studies and differential diagnosis. Archives of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine. 2012;136:113.
- Mirarabshahii P, et al. Diffuse malignant peritoneal mesothelioma: An update on treatment. Cancer Treatment Reviews. 2012;38:605.
- Kamal AH, et al. Dyspnea review for the palliative care professional: Treatment goals and therapeutic options. Palliative Care Review. 2012;15:106.
- Malignant mesothelioma treatment – for health professionals (PDQ). National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/types/mesothelioma/hp/mesothelioma-treatment-pdq. Accessed Sept. 17, 2015.
- Cook AJ. Decision Support System. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. June 29, 2015.
- OSHA Fact Sheet: Asbestos. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/asbestos/hazards.html. Accessed Oct. 7, 2015.
- Protect your family. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. http://www2.epa.gov/asbestos/protect-your-family. Accessed Oct. 7, 2015.