What Are the Risk Factors for Mesothelioma Cancer?

The #1 risk cancer for mesothelioma cancer is a past history of long-term exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a natural mineral found in many areas; however, asbestos used in commercial applications is used in a very high concentration. This mineral is made up of very strong fibers that resist heat, so it is very useful for producing heat and flame resistant flooring, shingles, brakes, insulation and more.

Left alone, asbestos is not dangerous; however, when it gets broken up, the particles float in the air and are inhaled into the lungs. This may happen when asbestos shingles or insulation are removed or when the mineral is mined. When asbestos fibers enter the lungs and stomach they settle and act as an irritant, which may eventually cause mesothelioma cancer. It can take 30-50 years for symptoms of mesothelioma to develop.

Interestingly, exposure to asbestos does not always cause mesothelioma cancer. Some people work around it for years and never develop this deadly disease. Others may work around it for a very short time and develop mesothelioma. This leads scientists to believe that their may be a genetic predisposition involved in the actual development of the cancer so, people who have a family history of mesothelioma may be at greater risk for developing this form of cancer.

In addition to direct contact with asbestos, those who live with a person who is exposed to asbestos at work may also be at risk. Asbestos fibers adhere to the person’s skin, clothes and hair and disperse into the air at home so, it is very important for people who are exposed to asbestos at work to leave their work clothes at work, shower at work, and wear clean clothes home.

Some research indicates that exposure to radiation may increase a person’s chances of developing mesothelioma cancer. The key culprit is a substance known as thorium dioxide, which is radioactive. For approximately 30 years, from the 1920s to the 1950s, this substance was used in standard X-rays to diagnose a variety of health conditions. Ironically, radiation therapy used to treat cancer of the lungs and breast cancer has also been linked to the development of mesothelioma.

In addition to asbestos and radiation, mesothelioma cancer has been linked to polio vaccines. These vaccines, given routinely between 1955 and 1963 contained a monkey virus known as simian virus 40 or SV40. Whether or not this virus causes mesothelioma is a matter of conjecture. Nonetheless, the virus has been removed from the polio vaccine.

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