Mesothelioma 101: Causes and Prevention

Mesothelioma. It’s a word that we are hearing more and more often, especially on television commercials. But what exactly is mesothelioma? In this article, we will discuss the definition of the word, what causes mesothelioma, and what you can do to help prevent the development of mesothelioma.

What Is Mesothelioma? 

According to the American Cancer Society, mesothelioma is, “A cancer that starts in the linings of certain parts of the body, especially in the linings of the chest or abdomen.” These linings, or “mesothelium,” are groups of specialized cells that protect your organs by allowing them to easily move against each other. Cancerous tumors can form in these linings and are most common in the chest and abdomen, but can also be found on rare occasions in the heart and testicles. 

What Causes Mesothelioma? 

While doctors and researchers aren’t confident about the exact cause of mesothelioma, they have been able to identify risk factors. The biggest risk factor when it comes to mesothelioma is high exposure to asbestos. When asbestos fibers are breathed in, they can get stuck in a person’s lungs and enter the organ’s lining. Asbestos fibers in the lining can injure the DNA of these cells and could result in rapid cell growth, which ultimately causes cancer. 

While millions of people have been exposed to asbestos at some time in their life, most cases of mesothelioma have occurred in people who had long term exposure to high levels of asbestos fibers. Radiation treatment is another high risk factor for mesothelioma. While less common than asbestos, it has been reported that a few people who underwent extensive radiation treatment for other cancers developed mesothelioma as a result. Just like asbestos, radiation treatment has the potential to damage the DNA of cells, and therefore make them more susceptible to becoming cancerous. 

Preventing Mesothelioma 

Since the most common risk factor of mesothelioma is asbestos, there are things you can do to prevent the development of mesothelioma. 

Be aware of where asbestos lives. The most effective way to prevent mesothelioma is by limiting your exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is most commonly found in older buildings. If you are working in a profession where you may come in contact with asbestos — such as renovating older homes, factory workers, or mining — make sure you wear protective gear to prevent breathing in asbestos. 

If you purchase an older home, contact an expert to inspect the home for asbestos before you move in. There is a simple test they can perform to determine if there is unsafe levels of asbestos in your home. Many buildings today have insulation that contains asbestos, but are safe to be in due to the fact that the materials are undamaged. Asbestos only becomes dangerous when the insulation is damaged or deteriorated over time and the fibers are released into the air. By law, older public buildings are required to have annual asbestos screenings to ensure the safety of the air quality. 

When to Contact an Attorney

Mesothelioma is being talked about more and more and it’s important to know what it is and how you can keep yourself healthy. If you came into contact with asbestos at your job and later got sick with mesothelioma, contact an attorney, like a workers’ compensation attorney from Polsky, Shouldice, & Rosen, P.C., as soon as possible.