Mesothelioma Causes

What Causes Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that is typically associated with exposure to asbestos.  In fact, more than 90% of all Mesothelioma cases are directly linked to asbestos exposure.  For hundreds of years, asbestos was used as insulation and a fire retardant in construction and shipbuilding in addition to many other miscellaneous uses.  While the detrimental health effects associated with asbestos exposure had been suspected for many years, it was not until the early 1970s that the full danger of asbestos exposure became common knowledge to the public. 

How Asbestos Causes Mesothelioma

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fiber that can enter the lungs or stomach when not handled properly.  When asbestos-containing materials are disturbed, friable asbestos fibers are released into the air.  Without proper ventilation or protection, the asbestos fibers travel into the lining of the lungs or stomach called the mesothelium.  The mesothelium typically provides lubricant and protection for moving organs like the heart and lungs.  Once inside, the body is unable to break down asbestos fibers, leaving the fibers lodged in the mesothelium where they eventually cause its cells to divide without control or order.   After a latency period ranging from 10-50 years, cancer in the mesothelium begins causing shortness of breath and a lingering cough, which are the most common reasons for hospitalization.

Mesothelioma by the Numbers

Historically, Mesothelioma naturally appears in 1 per 1,000,000 people.  Between WWII and the 1970s, asbestos was widely used in the construction and shipbuilding industries.  Companies often exposed employees to dangerous levels of asbestos fibers despite information suggesting its toxic nature.  As a result the occurrence of Mesothelioma in the population at large has grown to anywhere between 7 and 40 per 1,000,000 people.
While men over 65 are the most common victims of Mesothelioma, there are also many cases of women with Mesothelioma.  Experts believe that many women were exposed to dangerous levels of asbestos via the clothing of their husbands who worked closely with asbestos-containing materials. 

Where to Turn For More Information about Mesothelioma

Since the window of latency between asbestos exposure and the first signs of Mesothelioma can range between 10-50 years, many victims of Mesothelioma fail to connect their symptoms with prior asbestos exposure.  Many victims do not even realize they?ve been exposed.  Whether it is a wife exposed from washing asbestos infected clothing or an aged man who worked a summer construction job 40 years ago, even the smallest amount of asbestos exposure poses a danger.  If you or a loved one has been exposed to asbestos or are suffering from Mesothelioma-related symptoms, seek the advice of a licensed medical professional.