What Is Mesothelioma – Causes And Preventions
What Is Mesothelioma – Causes And Preventions: Mesothelioma is an aggressive and deadly form of cancer. Mesothelioma treatments are available, but for many people with mesothelioma, a cure isn’t possible.
Malignant mesothelioma (me-zoe-thee-lee-O-muh) is a type of cancer that occurs in the thin layer of tissue that covers the majority of your internal organs (mesothelium).
Furthermore, Mesothelioma cancer, caused by inhaling or ingesting asbestos fibers. The asbestos fibers lodge in the lining of the lungs, abdomen or heart. The fibers cause inflammation and scarring. Asbestos exposure may lead to the development of mesothelioma cancer.
What Is the Main Cause of Mesothelioma?
Asbestos is the most common cause of mesothelioma. All types of asbestos are cancerous. Exposure to asbestos accounts for at least 90% of all cases of mesothelioma.
When asbestos fibers are inhaled or ingested, they can become embedded in the lining of the lungs, abdominal cavity or heart. Once embedded, the fibers cause inflammation and scarring that can eventually lead to mesothelioma tumors. Inhaling the fibers can also cause other asbestos-related diseases, such as asbestosis.
In addition to the inflammation and scarring, the asbestos fibers also cause indirect and direct DNA damage.
However, Doctors divide mesothelioma into different types based on what part of the mesothelium is reach. Mesothelioma most often affects the tissue that surrounds the lungs (pleura). This type is label pleural mesothelioma. Other, rarer types of mesothelioma affect tissue in the abdomen (peritoneal mesothelioma), around the heart and around the testicles.
Signs and symptoms of mesothelioma vary depending on where the cancer occurs.
Pleural mesothelioma, which affects the tissue that surrounds the lungs, causes signs and symptoms that may includes:
- Chest pain
- Painful coughing
- Shortness of breath
- Unusual lumps of tissue under the skin on your chest
- Unexplained weight loss
- Peritoneal mesothelioma, which occurs in tissue in the abdomen, causes signs and symptoms that may include:
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal swelling
- Unexplained weight loss
Other forms of mesothelioma
Signs and symptoms of other types of mesothelioma are unclear, since these forms of the disease are very rare.
Pericardial mesothelioma, which affects tissue that surrounds the heart, can cause signs and symptoms such as breathing difficulty and chest pains.
Mesothelioma of tunica vaginalis, which affects tissue surrounding the testicles, may be first detected as swelling or a mass on a testicle.
The location of the embedded asbestos fibers and damaged DNA determines which form of mesothelioma develops.
Peritoneal mesothelioma develops in the lining of the abdomen.
Pleural mesothelioma develops in the lining of the lungs and chest wall.
Pericardial mesothelioma develops in the lining of the heart.
It often takes 10 – 50 years following asbestos exposure for patients to present mesothelioma symptoms.
How Do You Get Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is happens when expose to asbestos fibers. Asbestos exposure is most common in the workplace. However, exposure may also occur through natural asbestos in the environment or secondary exposure.
- Exposure can occur from the natural environment, asbestos products or secondary contact with loved ones.
- Secondhand exposure commonly occurs when asbestos fibers are brought home on asbestos workers’ hair, skin and clothing.
- Occupational Exposure
Asbestos regulations have increased in recent years, which helps to restrict the use of the carcinogen. However, workplace exposure is still a concern because of the wide past use of asbestos. Among those with the greatest risk of asbestos contact are firefighters and construction workers. These men and women may encounter asbestos when working in older homes and schools.
Asbestos exposure may also occur among individuals with no connection to asbestos workers. The carcinogen, found in homes and household items, which may lead to dangerous exposure. Homeowners may experience asbestos exposure when performing do-it-yourself remodeling projects. Homes built prior to 1980 are most likely to have been built with asbestos-containing construction materials.
Household products such as talcum powder, potting soils and paint have also all been found to contain trace amounts of the mineral. Recently, children’s makeup brands have come under fire for selling makeup that contained asbestos-contaminated talcum powder.
Most people with mesothelioma were exposed to the asbestos fibers at work. Workers who may encounter asbestos fibers include:
- Asbestos miners
- Shipyard workers
- Demolition workers
- Brake mechanics
- Selected military personnel
- Home remodelers
Ask your employer whether you have a risk of asbestos exposure on the job. Follow your employer’s safety regulations.
Follow all safety precautions in your workplace, such as wearing protective equipment. You may also be required to shower and change out of your work clothes before taking a lunch break or going home. Talk to your doctor about other precautions you can take to protect yourself from asbestos exposure.
Mesothelioma Risk Factors
Around 90% of all mesothelioma cases are the result of asbestos exposure. However, there are indications other factors may lead to a mesothelioma diagnosis.
Increased Risk Among the Elderly
One common misconception about mesothelioma is it only develops in the elderly. Although 91% of those diagnosed are 55 years old or older, younger patients have been diagnosed. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were 4,827 mesothelioma diagnoses in patients under 55 years old between 1999 and 2016.
The elevated risk among older individuals is largely due to the long latency period associated with the disease. Studies also continue examining a potential link between young adults’ genetics and their mesothelioma risk. Results from this research could lead to more early diagnoses, changing the age-related statistics of the disease.
A risk factor is something that increases the chance of developing a disease. A cause is something that directly triggers the disease.
Risk in Patients With the BAP1 Gene
The BAP1 gene suppresses tumors. A mutation of the gene increases the likelihood of tumor development. Individuals exposed to asbestos with this genetic mutation may be more susceptible to developing mesothelioma. The presence of this mutated gene is found through histological testing.
According to research from Fox Chase Cancer Center, 60% of mesothelioma patients are identified as having this specific genetic mutation. Researchers also found mesothelioma patients with this genetic mutation tended to be diagnosed at a younger age than those without the mutation. Additionally, patients with this genetic mutation overall had more favorable survival times than patients without the gene. In the patients studied, the mesothelioma cases were largely peritoneal mesothelioma and epithelioid cell type.
Greater Mesothelioma Incidence Among Men
Mesothelioma is not a gender-specific cancer, but does have a higher incidence among men. This correlation may be due to male-dominated asbestos occupations. For example, in the past, more men than women worked in high-risk occupations and areas, such as asbestos mines and shipyards. However, in recent years, women are experiencing higher rates of occupational and secondary asbestos exposure. Research has shown mesothelioma incidence among women is on the rise.
LIFESTYLE RISK FACTORS
Lifestyle Risk Factors for Malignant Mesothelioma includes:
Poor Health and Disease
Poor health results in an increased risk of developing diseases, including mesothelioma. Also, a weakened immune system hinders the body’s ability to fight the side effects of mesothelioma and the cancer itself.
Hence, for those already diagnosed with mesothelioma, poor health may reduce viable treatment options.
Can Smoking Cause Mesothelioma?
However, research has not definitively proven a link between smoking and mesothelioma. However, the relationship between smoking, lung disease and various forms of cancer is well established. Scientific studies continue to examine the relationship between smoking and mesothelioma.
Currently, there is little evidence smoking alone increases a person’s chance of developing mesothelioma. However, many studies have shown smokers are 50 – 90% more likely to develop asbestos-related lung cancer. Similarly, smokers exposed to asbestos are twice as likely to develop mesothelioma.
According to research, it is possible smoking makes it easier for asbestos to become embedded in the lungs and lead to cancer.
Prevention of Mesothelioma
Avoiding asbestos exposure is the most effective way to prevent mesothelioma. However, asbestos is not yet banned in the United States. In an effort to protect public health, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has put asbestos regulations in place.
Although progress is being made, past uses of asbestos continue to pose a health risk. Professional removal of asbestos-containing products is essential to disease prevention.
If asbestos exposure is suspected, individuals should speak with their healthcare team and monitor for any symptoms of mesothelioma, such as shortness of breath, weight loss and chest pain. However, it is difficult to identify exposure because mesothelioma symptoms manifest decades after exposure occurs. Monitoring for symptoms enables early intervention, a key factor in improving life expectancy.