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Causes of Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lung. There may be a few very rare causes of mesothelioma, but the main cause is asbestos. There are three types of asbestos, any of which are the root causes of mesothelioma in 90% of diagnosed cases. There are no causes of mesothelioma linked to smoking or genetics.

Causes of mesothelioma from exposure to asbestos are most commonly linked to occupation, though exposure can occur through household contamination and occasionally environmental contamination. Typically, asbestos contaminates a household by transfer from clothes of an asbestos worker. Asbestos is made of strong fibers that are resistant to heat and chemicals. When inhaled, these fibers travel to the ends of the smallest air passages. Once they reach the pleura, physical damage is caused to the mesothelial cells. Cancer is often the result of this physical damage. In addition, if these fibers are swallowed, they can adversely affect the stomach.

Though the causes of mesothelioma are known to be a result of asbestos exposure, and asbestos is no longer used, there are still a few thousand cases diagnosed each year. Often, it is not diagnosed until the disease has progressed far enough that long term treatment success rates are 2 years or less. Sadly, only about 20% of people with mesothelioma have a survival rate of more than 5 years.

The link between asbestos and mesothelioma was discovered in the 1960s. Today, a building or house known to contain asbestos is carefully abated before disturbance is caused. Much like lead-based paint, asbestos fibers must be inhaled or digested to cause damage. The people at the highest risk for mesothelioma are industrial workers, construction workers, and miners. The disease affects men nearly 5 times more than women and affects Caucasian males more than African American males. The most common test used to diagnose mesothelioma is a CT scan as there are no serum tests to diagnose the disease.

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