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Is Asbestos the Only Cause of Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma at a Glance

Malignant mesothelioma is a rare, asbestos-related cancer that forms on the thin protective tissues that cover the lungs and abdomen. Symptoms include shortness of breath, swollen abdomen, chest and/or abdominal pain, cough, fatigue, and weight loss. It is very common that symptoms do not surface for decades, allowing cancer to enter its 3rd or 4th stage of development. Treatments used o combat this disease include, surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and palliative treatments. Causes in the United States still average to be about 3,000 cases per year.

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous mineral that is soft and flexible, yet is still resistant to heat, electricity, and chemical corrosion. This mineral in its purest form is an effective insulator used in everything from clothes and paper to cement and plastic. It was, for this reason, it was once known as the “Miracle Mineral.” Legally, the United States government recognizes six types of asbestos that fall into two general categories as outlined in the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) of 1986. Those six types of Asbestos include Chrysotile (the most commonly found), Crocidolite, amosite, anthophyllite, tremolite, and actinolite.

What Causes Mesothelioma?

The only proven cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. When someone is exposed to asbestos, fibers are inhaled and/or ingested which beginning a chain of physical and metabolic reactions that lead to the development of mesothelioma. There are three main ways o in which you can be exposed to mesothelioma. Those main ways include occupationally, secondhand, and naturally.

Occupational Exposure

Occupational exposure to asbestos is the most common form of exposure. Approximately 75 percent of mesothelioma cases are men who served in the military or worked high-risk blue collar jobs. Because asbestos was used for insulation in buildings, pipes, ovens, and heaters and mixed with cement and plastics around the factories. Jobs with a high chance of asbestos exposure include construction, military service, mining, shipyard working, auto mechanic, and factory workers.

Secondhand Exposure

Secondhand exposure occurs when those working in high-risk jobs would come home. Asbestos fibers would attach to clothing, hair, and other materials on the worker’s body. Doing laundry and other household chores would spread asbestos fibers and exposure others indirectly.

Natural Exposure

This is the rarest form of asbestos exposure. This type of exposure occurs when a person that lives near large deposits of naturally occurring asbestos has been exposed to water runoff or are involved in mining projects.

Other Causes of Mesothelioma

Though asbestos exposure is the only proven cause for mesothelioma, researchers and doctor believe there are other causes. Other causes of Mesothelioma include exposure to other types of minerals, such as, zeolite or erionite and radiation exposure as a treatment for other cancers, which is rare and inconsistent.

Other Risk Factors

Risk factors that can contribute to the contraction of mesothelioma include receiving a polio vaccine, genetics, and age and gender. Over 1955 and 1963, the polio vaccine may have increased the risk of developing mesothelioma because of an inadvertent contamination with the simian virus 40 (SV40).