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Causes of Mesothelioma

Legally Reviewed by Joseph P. Williams on August 10, 2023

Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer that is diagnosed in more than 3,000 new patients in the U.S. each year. There is no known cure for mesothelioma. It is a unique illness in that it can develop years after its source – exposure to asbestos. The long latency period can make it difficult to know that you have mesothelioma until it has spread throughout your body. Understanding what causes mesothelioma could help you prevent this illness.

What Causes Mesothelioma?

The only proven cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. Asbestos refers to a group of minerals that are known carcinogens, meaning they are proven to cause cancer. Being exposed to asbestos in any shape or form can put an individual at risk of developing mesothelioma in the future. Asbestos causes mesothelioma by settling in the inner tissues of the body and staying there for many years, causing irritation and scar tissue. This scar tissue can eventually turn into cancerous tumors. Asbestos exposure can take anywhere from 15 to 70 years to result in mesothelioma.

Different Types of Mesothelioma and Their Causes

There are four different types of mesothelioma: pleural, peritoneal, pericardial and testicular. Each type of mesothelioma can come with different causes. Pleural mesothelioma, which occurs in the lining of the lungs, typically comes from breathing in asbestos fibers. These fibers may enter the air if a product that contains asbestos is disturbed, such as during the demolition of an older building at a construction site. Breathing in even a small amount of asbestos can cause the fibers to lodge in the mesothelium, although asbestos exposure does not always cause mesothelioma.

Peritoneal mesothelioma, or cancer in the lining of the abdomen, primarily comes from swallowing or ingesting asbestos fibers. This may occur if asbestos fibers are in the air or contaminated drinking water. Due to the small number of pericardial and testicular mesothelioma cases, the research around what causes these cancers is limited. While it is believed that they are also caused by exposure to asbestos, the exact mechanism of the exposure remains unclear.

What Are the Risk Factors for Mesothelioma?

While asbestos is the only proven cause of mesothelioma, there are certain traits and characteristics that can increase an individual’s risk of getting this disease. These risk factors include a family history of cancer or mesothelioma, radiation exposure, and older age. Working around asbestos, living in an older home, working in an older building or living with someone who works with asbestos can also increase your chances of developing mesothelioma.

How Can You Prevent Mesothelioma?

Preventing mesothelioma requires preventing exposure to asbestos. Learn the most common settings for asbestos exposure so that you will know when to expect this risk and how to properly address it and keep yourself safe. Occupational asbestos exposure is the most common cause of mesothelioma. This is because a worker’s occupation may expose him or her to asbestos consistently over time, which increases the odds of cancer. The occupations that put workers at the highest risk of asbestos exposure are:

  • Construction
  • Carpentry 
  • Masonry 
  • HVAC
  • Plumbing 
  • Auto repair
  • Naval and shipyard work
  • Oil rig and refinery
  • Military

While it is possible to develop mesothelioma from a single instance of asbestos exposure, this is rare. It is more common to get mesothelioma from working around asbestos regularly. If you work in one of these occupations, make sure your employer properly protects you and other workers from asbestos. Request the correct respirator and other personal protective equipment to keep yourself safe. You have the right to a safe work environment. If you believe your employer is failing to keep employees safe from mesothelioma, you can file a complaint.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact The Williams Law Firm, P.C. to find out if you have grounds for a lawsuit against the party that exposed you to asbestos. If someone else is responsible for what caused your disease, they may be financially accountable for your losses.

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