Mesothelioma is a rare, aggressive form of cancer that is usually caused by exposure to asbestos. The cancer forms in the thin layer of tissue that covers most of the internal organs (the mesothelium).
Medical professionals divide mesothelioma into various types based on the part of the mesothelium that has tumors. The basic types of mesothelioma are: (Cancer.net)
- Pleural mesothelioma: Affects the tissue surrounding the lungs. It comprises approximately 80% of mesothelioma cases.
- Peritoneal mesothelioma: Affects the tissue surrounding the abdominal organs. It comprises approximately 18%-20% of cases.
- Pericardial mesothelioma: Affects the tissue covering the heart. It is a very rare form of the disease that affects approximately 1% of patients.
What Causes Mesothelioma?
The vast majority of mesothelioma cases are caused by asbestos exposure at work or home. Asbestos is a natural substance that is highly heat, fire, and chemical reaction resistant, making it popular for many applications in industries and occupations such as railroads, shipbuilding, power, construction, oil refining, chemical processing, steel production, and many more.
When people handle asbestos, it can break into pieces, which creates a cloud of billions of invisible asbestos fibers. If asbestos is inhaled or ingested over time, some of the tiny fibers stick in the delicate tissues lining the organs.
While the body can expel some of the fibers, some remain stuck there for decades. In some patients, scarring occurs, followed by genetic changes in the DNA, which can lead to cancerous tumors forming in the lung, abdominal, or heart lining. (Mayoclinic.org). Mesothelioma is difficult to treat and many patients live less than a year.
After the 1970s, strict rules were passed in the US regarding asbestos in products. While less asbestos is used today, there are still thousands of people in the US who were exposed to asbestos in the past and may eventually be diagnosed with mesothelioma.
Occupations in Danger of Asbestos Exposure
Most people with this cancer were exposed to asbestos on the job. Workers who were often exposed include:
- Railroad workers
- Shipyard workers
- Brake mechanics
- Home remodelers
Asbestos Exposure in Baby Powder and Makeup
There also are reported cases of consumers being exposed to asbestos in cosmetic products, such as baby powder, makeup, and related products. Johnson & Johnson has been under fire for the last several years as thousands of consumers have sued the company for allegedly exposing them to asbestos. (WSJ.com)
For example, one of the largest baby powder asbestos verdicts against J&J was in Missouri in 2018. The jury ordered the healthcare giant to pay $4.7 billion to 22 women who alleged baby powder use had caused their cancer. (Reuters.com)
Consumers should know that common, everyday products such as talcum powder and makeup could contain traces of asbestos that might lead to mesothelioma or ovarian cancer.
The Dangers of Secondary Asbestos Exposure
Most exposure to asbestos happens to people at work, but the people who live with workers also are at risk. Asbestos dust can cling to clothes, hair, skin, and shoes. Their loved ones, including women and children, can be heavily exposed to asbestos in the home and develop mesothelioma.
One of the common causes of secondary asbestos exposure is from washing or handling clothes contaminated with the carcinogen.
That is exactly what happened to an English professor named John Panza. In 2012, Panza was diagnosed with mesothelioma. His father was employed at a brake plant where parts coated in asbestos were drilled and abraded. Panza helped his dad to wash his work clothes.
Over time, he inhaled enough asbestos fibers to develop pleural mesothelioma. Panza was awarded $27.5 million by an Ohio jury in 2013. (Cleveland.com)
Does Asbestos Exposure Always Cause Mesothelioma?
Most mesothelioma cases are caused by asbestos exposure. But there are other ways that people can develop mesothelioma. Below are rare ways that you could develop this disease that does not involve asbestos exposure.
A white paper published in the Archives of Pathology in 2011 detailed other possible causes of mesothelioma unrelated to asbestos exposure. (Archivesofpathology.org). The paper authors note there has been extensive interest in the relationship between mesothelioma and exposure to erionite, a fibrous type of the zeolite group of minerals.
Interest in erionite began when a high incidence of malignant mesothelioma was found in certain villages in Turkey. The mesothelioma could not be connected to occupational or environmental asbestos exposure. But it was found to be possibly related to exposure to erionite in volcanic rocks in the region. Erionite, like asbestos, contains a high percentage of fibers that can be inhaled.
Erionite often occurs as a tight felt of fibers that has a wooly appearance. Erionite fibers have been located in the lung tissues of people in this part of Turkey.
In inhalation studies on rats, doctors have been able to produce high rates of malignant mesothelioma with samples of erionite from Turkey. Injections of erionite in rats and mice produced rates of mesothelioma in excess of 90%. Researchers believe the major reason for the greater incidence rate of mesothelioma with erionite exposure compared to asbestos is due to the greater surface area of erionite.
Epidemiological studies on the affected Turkish villages have shown rates of mesothelioma approximately 1000 times the normal rate. Researchers have concluded that it can be reasonably concluded that erionite fibers are carcinogenic and even more potent than asbestos.
There also was a case study in 2010 that showed mesothelioma can occur from erionite exposure in North America. There are deposits of fibrous and nonfibrous zeolites, including erionite, in the western US and Mexico.
A small number of malignant mesothelioma cases were reported in eastern Sicily. In quarries near the city of Biancavilla, fluoro-edenite was found to be a possible cause of mesothelioma.
The mineral is similar in composition to various types of asbestos. A clinical study of sputum samples from people living in the region found fluoro-edenite fibers in at least 50% of those tested. These fibers also were found in an autopsy sample of a woman who died from mesothelioma. Fluoro-edenite fibers also were found in the lung tissues of sheep living in the area.
Carbon Nanotube Exposure
Concern has been raised in the 2000s about the possible risk of developing mesothelioma from exposure to carbon nanotubes (CNTs). CNTs are critical products of nanotechnology and are used in many applications pertaining to medicine and electronics. Comparisons have been made on data obtained on cellular and pulmonary effects of asbestos and CNTs.
Carbon nanotubes can exist as compact tangles of nanotubes or longer and straighter fibers. The latter type is of the most concern. Studies involving the implantation of CNTs into the peritoneal space of rats showed that CNTs with longer fibers produced inflammation greater or equal to that produced by long amosite asbestos.
Therapeutic Irradiation Exposure
Ionizing radiation is known to be a human carcinogen and is a risk factor for several forms of cancer, including solid tumors and hematologic malignancies. Cases of malignant mesothelioma have been reported in people who had therapeutic irradiation and thorium dioxide administration. The latency period was between seven and 50 years.
The connection between therapeutic radiation and malignant mesothelioma has been established from several case reports. One study of such reports found that the risk for mesothelioma among 2,567 five-year survivors of Hodgkin lymphoma was 30 times the general population for patients who received irradiation.
Experimental evidence from the 1950s and 1960s exists that shows viruses can cause malignancies in the mesothelium in hamsters and mice. These studies were done to look into the potential of mesothelioma developing from exposure to a monkey polyomavirus.
This virus was found to lead to mesothelioma in 35% of chickens that were given the virus in the air sac cavities.
New Research On Peritoneal Mesothelioma
A recent study by doctors that the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo found that only 50% of peritoneal mesothelioma cases are caused by asbestos. (NIH.gov). So, what is causing the cancer in other patients?
The scientists found that while the patient in the study seemed to be medically well after a physical and gynecological examination, she had abnormal epithelial cells in the lining of her abdominal cavity. She had never been exposed to asbestos, so her doctors did not suspect mesothelioma.
The woman was misdiagnosed with ovarian cancer. Once the mesothelioma cancer was found in this otherwise healthy woman, she received chemotherapy and most of the mesothelioma was eliminated. At this time, the cause of her mesothelioma remains unknown.
There is no doubt that the major reason most people get mesothelioma is from occupational or residential asbestos exposure. However, there are other potential causes of this terrible cancer. Talk to your doctor about other potential exposures that may have caused you to develop mesothelioma.
Get Mesothelioma Legal Compensation Help
With over $30 billion available for victims through the Asbestos Trust Funds, you could be entitled to financial compensations without ever filing a lawsuit. Mesothelioma & Lung Cancer victims qualify immediately. Complete the form or call us toll-free (800) 352-0871.