An In-Depth Guide on Mesothelioma Causes: Risk Factors of Asbestos Cancer

mesothelioma causes

There are about 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma each year in the United States. As mesothelioma causes are being better understood and more controlled, cases are declining.

However, mesothelioma remains one of the most preventable diseases out there. Learning about the root cause of the mesothelioma is crucial in treatment and accurate diagnosis, however, so learning about risk factors is a good idea.

Keep reading to find out more about mesothelioma and the risk factors and causes that are most common.

Mesothelioma Risk Factors

Mesothelioma is caused by asbestos exposure. Therefore, the majority of blue-collar workers and military personnel who worked before asbestos guidelines were put in place are at risk for developing this cancer.

There are several high-risk occupations that would make it much easier for you to become exposed to asbestos, whether you worked directly or indirectly with the substance.

If you worked at an asbestos mine or asbestos processing plant, you’re at high risk. Other positions like these include working in construction, heavy industry, and the military.

Construction and heavy industry jobs worked with asbestos directly, while military ships and facilities were filled with asbestos. We should also note that those who lived near asbestos mines and other contaminated sites are at risk as well.

Many homes were renovated when the new policies regarding asbestos were released. If the existing asbestos was not properly controlled, you could also be at risk.

Occupational Risk

We discussed a few jobs that work directly with asbestos, but we should also mention many jobs that didn’t but still became exposed to it. These include positions that involved working with raw minerals:

  • Auto mechanics
  • Boiler workers
  • Chemical plant workers
  • Industrial workers
  • Insulators

This is not a complete list. You should be concerned if you happened to work with asbestos or other mineral stores in any way.

Asbestos is most commonly found in adhesives, ceiling tiles, cement, drywall, glues, insulation, piping, and shingles. If you’ve had exposure to unregulated or unchecked commercial, domestic, and industrial products like these, you should have regular doctors’ appointments to check for the development of mesothelioma cancer.

Rarer Causes of Mesothelioma

There are a few much rarer causes of mesothelioma that we should cover as well.

If you were exposed to fibrous minerals such as erionite, you could develop mesothelioma by the same mechanism as asbestos. Exposure to radiation could cause mesothelioma cancer as well.

People who received a polio vaccine between the years of 1955 and 1963 could be at risk for developing mesothelioma as well. This is because there was a virus that was found in the vaccine known as simian virus 40 (SV40). This virus is more likely to cause mesothelioma.

The last known rarer cause of mesothelioma is the simple genetic predisposition to have cancer, especially cancer of the lungs.

The Role of Asbestos

As we have discussed, asbestos plays a key role in the development of mesothelioma.

If asbestos fibers are introduced into your body, you can develop mesothelioma. Asbestos fibers are introduced by inhaling them or swallowing them.

Types of Mesothelioma

The two main types of mesothelioma are pleural mesothelioma and peritoneal mesothelioma. These two different types are caused by the movement of asbestos to different parts of the body after inhalation or swallowing of those fibers.

Pleural mesothelioma follows after the inhalation of asbestos fibers. This is due to those inhaled fibers that migrated from the lung tissue to the lining that is outside of the lungs. This lining is referred to as the pleural cavity.

Peritoneal mesothelioma is caused by the swallowing of asbestos fibers. This is caused when the asbestos fibers accumulate in the lining of the abdomen. This lining is called the peritoneal membrane.

Asbestos Exposure Risks

Asbestos exposure is most likely to happen in the workplace, especially with those who are closely involved with the fibers. However, asbestos is naturally occurring. People can become exposed to asbestos if they live near it or have had environmental exposure to it.

The longer that you’ve worked in a job that exposes you to asbestos, the more likely you are to developed asbestos mesothelioma. So, the more you’ve worked in a high-risk job, the more you should be worried about possible infection.

There is no amount of exposure to asbestos that is safe. If you have had limited exposure, you should still be worried about the progression of a possible mesothelioma infection.

If you have worked in an environment with asbestos, you should find a doctor and be seen sooner rather than later. Early detection can boost your survival rate and ensure that you have proper treatment. A pulmonologist or a primary care provider will be able to help you.

If you constantly find yourself making excuses about seeing a physician because of time constraints, you may want to consider contacting a physician through telemedicine.

Second-Hand Exposure

Second-hand exposure to asbestos is possible. Those people who worked in the mines that were exposed to asbestos are bringing fibers home on their clothes. their family members can be exposed via these fibers.

If you have had a loved one work in a mine or another occupation of high risk, you should consider having them tested as well as you and the rest of the household. Second-hand exposure to asbestos can be just as dangerous as initial exposure to the fibers.

Environmental Exposure

Asbestos is naturally-occurring. Therefore, you can get asbestos exposure by simply enjoying some fresh air.

Asbestos is a mineral. People who live near mineral deposits like mountains or caves are at an increased risk for asbestos exposure and mesothelioma.

Those who live near old asbestos mines are still at an increased risk. Even if the mine hasn’t been touch in years, the asbestos is still in the air. The fibers are likely to get out into the air if it is not properly contained.

Other Risks

Asbestos-related mesothelioma is not affected by sex, age, or overall health. Everyone is at risk for developing mesothelioma if they’ve been exposed to asbestos. Males and females of any age can develop mesothelioma cancer.

That being said, those who do have pre-existing conditions can become harmed more by developing mesothelioma cancer. For example, someone who has developed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease will have a much tougher time battling mesothelioma than someone who is completely healthy.

Present-Day Exposure Risk

While asbestos regulations were put in several years ago, there are still some places that are not properly built. Present-day construction workers, firefighters, and other homeworkers can still be exposed.

If they are working in old homes or other structures that still contain asbestos or asbestos-contaminated materials, they could breathe in the fibers.

If proper safety precautions are not met, these workers can develop mesothelioma.

New homes can still hold asbestos fibers in their roofing or within contaminated walls. This is why you may see several homeworkers wearing masks even if your home is brand new. It is worth getting an asbestos inspection to check for these pesky fibers.

Keep in mind that asbestos is taken seriously by the government. Asbestos removal is taken seriously. If you don’t follow the rules outlined about the use of asbestos, the government will fine you.

Although it’s not one of the most common workplace injuries, asbestos can still be contracted at workplaces where regulations are not followed completely.

Mesothelioma Causes

Understanding the physical causes of mesothelioma can seem complicated, but don’t worry. We understand that the biology and chemistry behind how mesothelioma develops are complicated, especially if you don’t have a medical degree.

Let us break it down so you can easily understand it.

The Biological Process

As we’ve discussed, asbestos is the main cause of mesothelioma cancer. Asbestos exists as small fibers that can float around in the air around us. This is why the fibers can be so easily swallowed or inhaled.

Asbestos fibers are not easily recognizable. They are not all visible. In fact, the sneakiest asbestos fibers are the small ones that we cannot see.

When these small fibers find their way into your body, they cause your body to have an inflammatory response. This is the same response that goes on if you’re exposed to something you’re allergic to.

Your immune system is trying to get rid of these tiny, pesky fibers. However, the fight that your immune system puts up causes scarring within your body.

The Immune System Response

Mesothelioma doesn’t happen all at once. This cancer does not develop until several years after exposure to asbestos.

The fibers that find their way into your body keep building up over time. The more exposed you have become to asbestos fibers, the more fibers you’ll have built up in your system. Keep in mind that this build-up could be in your lungs or your stomach or even both.

The human body has a very difficult time trying to combat these fibers. Your body cannot simply fight them off or remove them.

As we’ve explained, asbestos fibers are pesky. No amount of immune system response will completely rid of the asbestos fibers. However, your body will continue trying to fight them off.

This is regardless of the damage it is doing in the process.

Mesothelioma cancer develops over time as this scarring continues. A large problem also lies with the DNA damage that takes place.

DNA Damage

The cells that surround the asbestos fibers that invaded are in danger of becoming damaged. There are four kinds of identified damaged cells that come about because of asbestos fiber infection in the body.

The first kind of damaged cells is known as inflamed cells. These are cells that became inflamed, or irritated, by the immune system attacking the asbestos fibers. Inflamed cells are irreversibly damaged by the scarring which causes cancerous cells.

The second kind of DNA damage is genetic changes. If the asbestos fibers enter into the cells around them, those cells become known as mesothelial cells. Their lifecycles become disrupted and this causes genetic changes that lead to cancer.

The third kind of DNA damage is cancerous mutations. When asbestos fibers enter your body, the inflammatory response causes the production of free radicals. Free radicals damage DNA and turn healthy cells cancerous.

The fourth kind of DNA damage is uncontrolled growth. The asbestos fibers cause your body to produce oncoproteins. Oncoproteins stop protective genes, causing the production of tumors from uncontrolled cell growth.

How Smoking Plays a Role

Surprisingly, smoking has not been linked to the development of mesothelioma cancer. Therefore, smoking is not considered a risk factor for mesothelioma.

However, people who smoke and have had exposure to asbestos have been found to be more at risk for developing mesothelioma. Also, those who smoke are at risk for contracting other kinds of cancer such as lung cancer and esophageal cancer.

In general, smoking can wear down your lungs and your immune system. Because of this, smoking makes it more difficult for your body to dispose of asbestos fibers.

Mesothelioma Prevention and Detection

All of this information may be difficult to take in, especially if you’re finding that you have many of the risk factors for mesothelioma cancer. We recommend that you see a physician if you have had known asbestos exposure.

However, if you’re worried about future exposure, you should understand prevention and detection techniques.

The best thing you can do for yourself is to stay away from any known or suspected places of asbestos. If you can, you should try to refrain from the at-risk jobs we discussed above. You should also refrain from living near asbestos deposits.

If you do work in a field where asbestos exposure is possible, you should make sure to discuss protection with your boss and your teammates. You should make sure to protect yourself if you’re entering older homes or mineral deposits.

You may want to discuss the next steps after a mesothelioma diagnosis with a personal injury lawyer as well if you are interested in taking legal action.

Learn More About Mesothelioma Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

If you fear that you could be at high-risk for developing mesothelioma cancer, you should consider diagnostic testing. You want an experienced physician to diagnose this disease earlier rather than later.

There are lots of experienced physicians and other healthcare workers that can help you with determining your risk for mesothelioma. If you are looking towards seeing a doctor about your mesothelioma causes and risk factors, you should consider scheduling an appointment as soon as possible.