According to experts, doctors diagnose approximately 3,000 cases of mesothelioma annually in the United States. The vast majority of these cases are linked to job-related exposure to asbestos. And although asbestos cases have been dropping in recent decades, this cancer can take from 20 to 50 years after asbestos exposure for symptoms to appear people. For this reason, people are still being diagnosed with at a steady rate. Unfortunately, there is no cure for mesothelioma. However, researchers have made significant progress in understanding this cancer and developing new treatment options for patients that are currently being diagnosed. If you suspect that you or a loved one has been exposed to asbestos, you need to see a doctor for diagnosis and care.
What Actually Causes Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma usually develops after a person is exposed to asbestos. As mentioned above, most of these cases occur in the workplace in industrial settings like shipyards, schools, old houses, public buildings, and auto repair shops. Additionally, this form of cancer usually a long period of exposure to put someone at risk. However, short-term and one-time exposures have also been known to cause this form of cancer.
How Does Asbestos Cause Damage?
Asbestos typically causes health complications when workers disturb asbestos-containing materials in walls or by releasing the fibers into the air. When the worker inhales or swallows these microscopic fibers, the body naturally struggles to get rid of them. Over decades, the fibers become trapped and trigger biological changes in the body. Usually, these changes can cause inflammation, genetic damage, scarring, and cancer.
Microscopic asbestos fibers most often collect in the lining of the lungs. But, they also can accumulate in the lining of the heart or the abdominal cavity. The bad news is, once fibers cause biological damage, the latency period begins and decades later, the person usually develops Mesothelioma.
Research On Mesothelioma
In 2009, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) presented full research that confirmed in no uncertain terms that asbestos exposure was the leading cause for mesothelioma. They also showed that all forms of asbestos cause the disease. Then, in early 2011, the IARC presented evidence of a direct link between asbestos and cancer. The IARC further explained that scientific evidence of this specific link has only been strengthened over time.
Additional Factors That Can Increase Mesothelioma Risk
Exposure to asbestos is the leading cause for mesothelioma. However, other factors can play a role in the development and speed at which this cancer progresses. Some of these risk factors include:
- Working at an asbestos processing plant or an asbestos mine.
- Working in high-risk occupational settings like construction or automotive industries.
- Serving on military ships or facilities built with materials that contain asbestos.
- Living in residential areas near asbestos mines.
- Disturbing asbestos fibers during a home renovation.
- Exposure to mineral fibers like zeolites. These fibers are chemically similar to asbestos, and may also increase the risk for mesothelioma.
- Exposure to radiation.
- Use of Polio Vaccines and Simian Virus 40P between 1955 and 1963.
Age and Gender. Mesothelioma is more commonly diagnosed in men than women and usually does not affect people younger than age 45.
Is Use Of Tobacco Products A Risk Factor?
The answer to this is no. In fact, studies have shown that smoking or use of tobacco products may cause other forms of cancer but are not a risk factor for mesothelioma. However, it is important to note that people who smoke and have exposure to asbestos are as much as 90 percent more likely to develop lung cancer. Researchers also determined that smoking can weaken the lungs and reduce the body’s ability to naturally remove asbestos fibers that have become trapped inside. Smoking can also aggravate asbestosis, an incurable breathing disorder that is caused by exposure to asbestos.
Where Does Asbestos Usually Come From?
Most of us have heard of asbestos, but many of us know very little about where it comes from and where it usually lurks. Experts say that asbestos was once used in millions of U.S. homes and businesses as insulation and heat-protecting products. After the construction boom following World War II, drywall, wiring, glues, adhesives, ceiling tiles, cement, and shingles were all constructed with asbestos as a main component. This means that hundreds of thousands of homes built during that period may still contain this dangerous product. Many of the asbestos products in old structures and are usually harmless. The trouble only occurs when these products are disturbed through renovation or destruction of a home. Other exposure generally occurred in mines, processing plants, and shipyards.
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