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Is Mesothelioma Contagious?

Legally Reviewed by Joseph P. Williams on April 17, 2024

Like all types of cancer, mesothelioma is not contagious. It does not spread from person to person. Instead, it typically stems from a person’s exposure to asbestos. Mesothelioma is a serious type of cancer that can be terminal when malignant. It is the development of cancer cells in the thin layer of tissue, the mesothelium, that lines most internal organs. No known cure exists for mesothelioma. If you know someone with mesothelioma, do not be afraid of catching it like a virus or disease.

How Does Someone Get Mesothelioma?

The most common cause of mesothelioma is inhaling or ingesting particles of asbestos. Asbestos is a carcinogenic mineral. Breathing in or ingesting asbestos causes about 15,000 related deaths in the US per year. Despite most governments banning the use of asbestos in consumer and commercial materials, about 125 million people worldwide still face exposure to asbestos in the workplace. Any level of exposure to asbestos, no matter how small, could potentially lead to mesothelioma later in the victim’s life.

Exposure to asbestos can lead to cancer slowly. It is not something that happens days, weeks or even months after the date of initial exposure. Mesothelioma typically takes 10 to 50 years (or longer) to develop and show symptoms. Both men and women can develop mesothelioma from asbestos exposure. The most common type of mesothelioma is pleural, in the lining of the lungs. When asbestos leads to mesothelioma, the cancer cells in one person generally cannot live in the body of a healthy person. The same is true for all types of cancers.

Can Cancer Ever Be Contagious?

While cancer is not contagious, there have been rare cases of cancer transferring from one person to another during organ transplants. Physicians carefully screen donors to reduce this risk; however, some cases have occurred when an organ transplanted from someone with cancer causes the same type of cancer in the recipient. Keep in mind, however, that a person receiving an organ takes medication that weakens his or her immune system – making that patient’s body unable to fight off cancer cells as it normally would.

Debunking Other Mesothelioma Myths

Despite thousands of people living with mesothelioma and new cases being diagnosed every year, it is still a commonly misunderstood disease. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, learn the truth to debunk a few common myths you might hear about this type of cancer.

  • Myth: Mesothelioma is only something the elderly get. Fact: Any adult can get mesothelioma. Doctors have diagnosed cases in younger adults and children as well as the elderly. It is simply a more common diagnosis among older people due to the length of time it takes for this cancer to show symptoms.
  • Myth: Mesothelioma is lung cancer. Although the most common type of mesothelioma affects the lungs, it is not the same as lung cancer. Lung cancer develops inside the tissues of the lungs, while mesothelioma is a cancer of the tissues lining the lungs. Lung cancer is more easily treatable than mesothelioma.
  • Myth: You have to be exposed to asbestos for a long time to get mesothelioma. Studies have found that no amount of asbestos exposure is safe for humans. Although prolonged exposure increases the likelihood of mesothelioma and other related diseases, even small amounts can be dangerous.

Get the facts about mesothelioma from your doctor. Then, discuss the legal aspects of having mesothelioma, such as bringing a damage claim against your employer or someone else for knowingly or negligently exposing you to asbestos, with an attorney. A New York mesothelioma attorney can help you understand your rights as a patient. You may have grounds for a case against someone in pursuit of financial compensation.

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