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Home > About mesothelioma > Risk factors

Risk factors

There are two types of risk factors: risk factors that cannot be controlled, such as age and family history and risk factors that can be controlled, such as smoking. But still it is not clear whether or not they actually cause the disease directly, but however it can influence disease. Sometimes people with no known risk factors develop the disease but people with several risk factors do not. It is important to make wise lifestyle and health-care choices with the help of your doctor who knows about your risk factors.

Here are several factors that can raise a possibility of developing mesothelioma:

Asbestos exposure

The main reason is, without any doubt asbestos exposure. Most of the patients with mesothelioma were exposed to asbestos during their work. As it was said early asbestos is a natural mineral that has strong, flexible fibers. Before 60s asbestos they added asbestos to insulation, cement, etc. Usually asbestos dust can get into lungs by breathing of it on workplaces or near mines, plants and other factories. This dust can also be carried on clothing, so there is a big risk exposing of family members of the workers of asbestos mines.

There are several kinds of asbestos - amphiboles and serpentine. Amphiboles are rod-like and very thin fibers. There are 5 main types of amphiboles - amosite, crocidolite, actinolyte, tremolite and anthrophylite. Amphiboles are the most cancer-causing ones. Serpentine fibers are curly and pliable. Yet, all the forms and types of asbestos fibers are harmful and can cause malignant (cancerous) mesotheliomas.

The asbestos causes cancer mostly by physically injuring cells. After inhalation, most of the fibers are cleared in the nose, windpipe, throat and large breathing tubes of the lungs called bronchi. Asbestos is cleared being swallowed or coughed up or by sticking to mucus. But the longest and thinnest fibers may reach the ends of the small airways and thus penetrate into the pleural lining of the chest wall lung. By penetrating asbestos fibers can harm mesothelial, and thus cause mesothelioma.

Another display of injuriousness of asbestos fibers is asbestosis - the result of damaging cells of the lung by asbestos and formation of scar tissue in the lung. Also the developing of lung cancer is possible. Lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma are the three most frequent diseases among people exposed to asbestos. Also peritoneal mesothelioma in the abdomen can develop as a result of coughing up and swallowing inhaled asbestos fibers. There are also evidences that asbestos is a cause of cancers of the larynx, pancreas, esophagus, colon, and kidney, but risk of developing of this disease is not very high.

The developing of mesothelioma depends on the quantity and the time of asbestos exposing. Children who were exposed for a long period of time will develop mesothelioma almost for sure. 20 and 40 years is a usual time between exposure to asbestos and diagnosis.

Not only asbestos but also the genetic factors play a role in developing this cancer. This is the only explanation of the fact that not all persons exposed to asbestos dust develop mesothelioma.

Radioactive emanation

There are several articles about pleural and peritoneal mesotheliomas that developed after a person was exposed Thorotrast (thorium dioxide). Thorotrast has not been used for many years after it was found to cause cancers.

Simian Virus 40 (SV40)

There are some viruses that can cause mesothelioma, for example simian virus 40. It can be found in human mesothelioma cells and it to induce mesothelioma to develope. It was found out that polio vaccines administered as a primary prevention measure during 1955 - 1961 was contaminated with SV40. However further research are needed to understand connection between viral etiology and malignant mesothelioma.


The combination of smoking and asbestos exposure greatly increases the risk of lung cancer, approximately 50-90 times greater . But usually asbestos workers die of lung cancer but not of mesothelioma. According to statistics asbestos exposure and smoking greatly increases the risk of certain types of lung cancer.

Mineral Zeolite

Zeolite - is a silicate mineral, that is related to asbestos. It can be found in the soil of Turkey in the Anatoli region. There are several cases of mesothelioma that have been described in this region.

Risk of developing Mesothelioma is considered an occupational hazard and those at increased risk include the following:

  • Workers of an asbestos mine or mill
  • Workers in shipyards
  • Producers of asbestos products
  • Workers in the heating and construction industries
  • Friends and family of the workers in the above listed fields
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