Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that affects the mesothelium or the thin membrane covering the internal organs, like the lungs, heart, and the abdominal organs. About 3000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma in the U.S. It is often caused by exposure to asbestos and it could take years for it to develop into a cancerous state. By the time people begin noticing its symptoms and getting it diagnosed, the disease could move into a much more advanced state.
Though 70–80% of reported cases are asbestos related, there are other causes of mesothelioma. Here are the top 6 causes of mesothelioma.
1. Asbestos Exposure
Mesothelioma is commonly developed by exposure to asbestos at work. The exposure could happen at construction sites, in automotive industries, while serving on military ships, or living near asbestos mines. Family members and immediate social circles are also at risk of developing mesothelioma. Even washing the clothes of someone who works with asbestos can increase the risk of getting it. Since asbestos was found to be extremely harmful to health, about 60 countries have banned its use. One study revealed a few people began developing cancer in just 1–3 months of exposure.1
Sometimes certain environmental factors can also lead to mesothelioma, including people who live near an asbestos mine. When people inhale asbestos, its dangerous fibers begin corroding the protective lining of the lungs and abdomen. This causes inflammation and it eventually forms cancer.
2. Gene Mutation
Researchers have found a link between BAP1 (a gene) and mesothelioma. A protein associated with the gene is responsible for suppressing the growth of tumor and cancerous cells. But asbestos, when inhaled, causes damage and mutation to the DNA and this leads to the growth of cancer.2
Another study found out an infection with a virus known as simian virus 40 (SV40) might increase the risk of mesothelioma. But the jury is still out on this one. Between 1955 and 1963, a polio vaccine was contaminated with the virus and millions of people were exposed to it. So far, there has not been any report linking this to an increased risk of mesothelioma.
Most of us aren’t aware of the harmful side of talc, which is why it is used in several cosmetics and pharmaceutical products. Some studies claim that because talc and asbestos are located close to each other on the ground, it causes the same harmful effect in people. Another study found out asbestos was part of the chemicals in talcum powder and this was revealed as a possible cause of mesothelioma in women.3
Erionite is a mineral that has similar effects as asbestos. One study found a large number of people who lived in southeast Turkey suffered from malignant pleural mesothelioma, that is cancer of the outer lining of the lungs. This is because most of them were exposed to erinonite from childhood, and 50% of all deaths in several villages could be attributed to erionite.4
6. Radiation Exposure
Exposure to radiation can also cause mesothelioma. The American Cancer Society revealed that radiation to the lungs or abdomen can cause tissue damage which eventually develops into cancer.
One way of treating mesothelioma is a mix of chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation. Several people have also found relief combining their treatment with a few alternative methods like acupuncture, aromatherapy, and energy therapy.
|↑1||Asbestos Exposure and Cancer Risk. National Cancer Institute.|
|↑2||Cigognetti, Marta, Silvia Lonardi, Simona Fisogni, Piera Balzarini, Vilma Pellegrini, Andrea Tironi, Luisa Bercich et al. “BAP1 (BRCA1-associated protein 1) is a highly specific marker for differentiating mesothelioma from reactive mesothelial proliferations.” Modern Pathology 28, no. 8 (2015): 1043-1057|
|↑3||Gordon, Ronald E., Sean Fitzgerald, and James Millette. “Asbestos in commercial cosmetic talcum powder as a cause of mesothelioma in women.” International journal of occupational and environmental health 20, no. 4 (2014): 318-332|
|↑4||Demirer, Ersin, Christian F. Ghattas, Mohamed O. Radwan, and Elamin M. Elamin. “Clinical and prognostic features of erionite-induced malignant mesothelioma.” Yonsei medical journal 56, no. 2 (2015): 311-323|