Causes of Mesothelioma

Causes of Mesothelioma
By Sandra Oertell, Guest Editor

While this aggressive cancer is very difficult to diagnose and even harder to treat, the causes of mesothelioma are well known. In the United States, this dreadful disease is diagnosed in two to three thousand people every year! Not shocking enough?  Of those diagnosed with mesothelioma, three quarters of them got it from inhaling or swallowing particles of asbestos.

The obvious places to be exposed daily to asbestos are on the job.  Military personnel, anyone who works on cars (either manufacturing or repairing), construction people, miners, and anyone else who works with materials such as cement, flooring, textiles, roofing materials, and insulation is at risk.

But there are other, more insidious places that are also causes of mesothelioma. Your home…your children’s school, anywhere that asbestos was used for insulating is a danger to your health. Some even believe that just handling the clothing of someone who works near asbestos can make it possible for you to inhale or swallow some particles, putting you at risk.

Not all scientists agree on the way in which asbestos causes mesothelioma, though they all are sure that asbestos is the culprit.  Here are several of their theories:

  • Free radicals damage your DNA and cause cell mutation that leads to cancer.  Asbestos increases production of these free radicals.
  • Asbestos inflames and irritates the mesothelial cells causing damage and scarring, which then causes the cancer.
  • The particles of asbestos enter and disrupt cell functions that are responsible for normal division of the cells. These changes then cause the cancer.

You will note that all these mesothelioma causes have one thing in common. Asbestos destroys, alters, or changes the structure of the cells…and cancer is the end result. Once the damage has occurred, the membranes thicken, and fluid begins to build up between the layers, after which tumors begin to grow.

There are cases in which no known exposure to asbestos has taken place.  There are about fifty recorded cases of mesothelioma caused by radiation treatments. There are also other mineral fibers that do not contain asbestos (taconite and erionite are two) that are now being linked to the disease. When simian virus 40 contaminated polio vaccine in the 50’s and 60’s, it was also connected to malignant mesothelioma.

Of course, there are other causes of mesothelioma that have not been substantiated. Among them are injuries to the chest, organic chemicals, chronic inflammations of the chest, and genetics. While smoking is not a cause of this cancer, it does aggravate other conditions that are related to asbestos, and it is said to increase the risk of lung cancer by 84%.

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