Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Asbestos fibers, when inhaled or ingested, can cause scarring and inflammation in the lungs, chest wall, and abdomen. This can lead to the development of mesothelioma tumors. Research has shown that 80% of all cases of mesothelioma are caused by known exposure to asbestos.
Other potential risk factors, such as exposure to the SV40 virus or minerals that look like asbestos, have not been proven to cause mesothelioma. Mesothelioma was practically unknown until the 20th century when industries began using asbestos in various structures due to its resistance to fire, water, sound, and more. Asbestos fibers take an average of 20 to 50 years to convert normal mesothelial cells into mesothelioma cancer cells. This time lag between exposure and the development of the disease is known as the latency period.
Once mesothelial cells become cancerous, they can quickly form mesothelioma tumors that grow and spread within months to a few years. Studies have shown that radiation treatment for other types of cancer or certain genetic markers may increase the risk of developing mesothelioma. However, asbestos is still the only proven cause of the disease.Asbestos was commonly used to build various types of structures in the 1930s and early 1980s. Because of this, many people have been exposed to asbestos in some way from the 1930s to today.
Although the use of asbestos fell sharply in the 1980s, after the mineral's hazards became widespread, it has not been completely banned. Some of these workplaces still pose a risk of exposure to asbestos and mesothelioma even today.When asbestos breaks, such as during the extraction process or when removing asbestos insulation, dust can be created. If dust is inhaled or swallowed, asbestos fibers will settle in the lungs or stomach, where they can cause irritation that can lead to mesothelioma. It is not understood exactly how this happens.Researchers addressed the paradox of how asbestos fibers that destroy cells could cause cancer.
They found that when asbestos kills cells, it does so by inducing a process called programmed cell necrosis that leads to the release of a molecule called the high-mobility group box 1 protein (HMGB). HMGB1 initiates a particular type of inflammatory reaction that causes the release of mutagens and factors that promote tumor growth.People who are close to asbestos products and inhale or swallow asbestos fibers may develop mesothelioma decades later. Risk factors for developing mesothelioma are working around or indirectly around asbestos-related products, such as second-hand exposures seen with wives washing their loved ones' clothes and having asbestos dust. In Turkey, an asbestos-like mineral called erionite has been shown to increase the risk of mesothelioma.If you have symptoms of mesothelioma or any asbestos-related illness, it is important that you tell your doctor about your exposure to asbestos so that appropriate tests can be performed.
Mesothelioma doctors can help diagnose and treat this rare cancer.The best way to avoid developing mesothelioma is to avoid exposure to asbestos altogether. If you work in an industry where you may be exposed to asbestos, make sure you take all necessary safety precautions and wear protective gear at all times.