Mesothelioma Risk Factors
Clearly, the major risk factor for developing mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. Though researchers have examined other potential causes for this rare form of cancer, asbestos continues to leap to the forefront of all studies and it has long been known that this toxic naturally-mined material is a carcinogen.
Nevertheless, there are certain groups of people that are more likely to have been exposed to asbestos than others and, hence, they are more likely to be at high risk for developing the disease. These include those who worked in positions such as:
- Construction workers
- Chemical plant workers
- Oil refinery workers
- Power plant workers
- Auto mechanics
- Railroad employees
- 9/11 emergency responders
Asbestos products were widely used in these industries for more than three-quarters of the 20th Century and many of the individuals who worked in these positions encountered the hazardous mineral on an almost-daily basis, putting them at extremely high risk for developing mesothelioma. Though experts note that no amount of exposure is safe, those with prolonged exposure are certainly at the top of the list when it comes to susceptibility to the disease.
In addition, those who did home renovations or other DIY projects may have also suffered direct exposure to asbestos. The mineral was long used in a number of building projects, so those who tore apart walls and ceilings or installed new insulation, for example, may have suffered exposure, especially if they didn’t wear proper protective gear.
Others at risk for developing mesothelioma include the spouses or children/grandchildren or those who worked with asbestos on a regular basis. While mesothelioma is not contagious, it wasn’t unusual for workers to bring home asbestos dust on their clothing. Those close to them may have inhaled the dust. Numerous cases of this rare cancer have been diagnosed among women who washed asbestos-laden clothing, inhaling the fibers in the process. Other similar cases include adults who as children who enjoyed close contact with their father (or grandfather) when he got home from work, before he changed and showered, never realizing that they were inhaling dangerous fibers as well.
Smoking and Mesothelioma
Even though smoking can not cause mesothelioma, it does make a person more likely to develop it. Reports have shown that smokers who worked with asbestos are up to 90 percent more likely to develop mesothelioma than those who don’t smoke. Furthermore, smokers who already have asbestosis are also more likely to develop mesothelioma. Simply put, smoking and asbestos don’t mix.
- National Cancer Institute. Mesothelioma: Questions and Answers http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Sites-Types/mesothelioma
- American Lung Association. "Mesothelioma Fact Sheet"http://www.lungusa.org/site/c.dvLUK9O0E/b.4293531/
- American Cancer Society. Detailed Guide. Malignant Mesothelioma http://www.cancer.org/docroot/CRI/content/CRI_2_4_3X_How_is_malignant_mesothelioma_diagnosed_29.asp?sitearea
Last modified: April 13, 2010.