Mesothelioma vs Carcinoma Cancer

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Mesothelioma cancer of the lung or abdominal lining that is caused by asbestos exposure. Carcinoma (squamous cell) is a type of skin cancer. It is vital to understand the differences between these cancers, but also what they have in common.

Mesothelioma Overview

Mesothelioma is caused by asbestos exposure and develops in the delicate lining of the body’s organs. It occurs most often in the lungs but can develop in the abdomen, heart, and testicles. In very rare cases, it may develop in the skin. (

When mesothelioma affects the lungs, it is called pleural mesothelioma. When it enters the abdomen, it is known as peritoneal mesothelioma. This cancer is most often diagnosed in older men between 60 and 80 with extended periods of asbestos exposure during their careers.

Mesothelioma is not usually diagnosed until the later stages of mesothelioma, so many patients only get palliative care to make their last days more comfortable. Common symptoms of pleural mesothelioma are:

  • Pain in the chest
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fever at night
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Poor appetite and weight loss
  • Constant cough with blood occasionally in mucous
  • Swollen and clubbed fingertips

In peritoneal mesothelioma, common systems are:

  • Swelling and pain in the stomach
  • Feeling nauseous
  • Poor appetite that accompanies weight loss
  • Constipation and diarrhea

Mesothelioma Causes

Mesothelioma is usually caused by extensive asbestos exposure on the job. When asbestos is handled or disturbed in heavy manufacturing and industrial work, tiny fibers become airborne, which can be inhaled or swallowed. It is unknown how much exposure is needed for a person to develop mesothelioma, but it is dangerous even in low amounts.

Most patients develop symptoms of mesothelioma about 20 years after they are exposed. Asbestos is illegal in the US in most applications, but it still is in older buildings.

Mesothelioma is typically diagnosed with :

  • CT scan
  • Biopsy
  • X-ray
  • Laparoscopy
  • Thoracoscopy

When mesothelioma is discovered, it usually is in the later stages, and mesothelioma treatment is challenging. However, in cases where it is found early, surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation may be effective.

Carcinoma Overview

Carcinoma is a skin cancer that can have melanomas or not. Squamous cell carcinoma is a form of non-melanoma cancer. It usually is caused by being exposed to excessive UV radiation. The keratinocytes in the epidermis begin to grow out of control and tumors develop. (

Carcinoma can appear anywhere on the body, but they are most frequently found in the neck, face, and back of the hands. People who are at highest risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma are:

  • Elderly people
  • People who work outside a lot, such as roofers, farmers, sailors, and builders
  • People who have very fair skin
  • People who have undergone UV treatment for psoriasis and similar conditions
  • People whose immune system is suppressed

There is no genetic link known with carcinoma. But some of the most important risk factors, such as having fair skin, are inherited. It is a good idea to check your skin regularly for any unusual spots on your body. Anything suspicious should be reported to your mesothelioma doctor.

Carcinomas can usually be cured if they are detected early. If they are not treated, cancer can spread into the lymph nodes and can be fatal.

Mesothelioma and Skin Tumors

Is there a link between mesothelioma and squamous cell carcinoma? Basically, if people have certain spots on their skin, they have a higher risk of getting mesothelioma later in life.

Research Sheds Light on Mole-Like Tumors and Mesothelioma

The University of Hawaii has found that people who have tumors that look like moles or have a BAP1 gene are more likely to develop mesothelioma. Thanks to these findings, it might be possible someday to diagnose mesothelioma earlier.

The BAP1 gene is one that is thought to suppress tumors, so it should restrain cancer. But if the gene mutates, it cannot fight cancer properly. The research shows that people with asbestos cancer are more likely to have the BAP1 gene, too. When combined with other research, scientists understand that people who have mole-like tumors are more likely to get mesothelioma.

Actually, it is thought that marks on the skin could be the first manifestation of BAP1 cancer syndrome.

In the research, 118 patients were studied. It was determined that those who had skin moles were more likely to develop mesothelioma. This means there is a strong relationship between the two types of cancerous growths.

Conclusions from Study Offers Hope

Every year, approximately 3,000 cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed. Most of the cases are too advanced for mesothelioma treatment to be very effective. The prognosis for someone who is newly diagnosed with mesothelioma is only a life expectancy of 18 months.

But because of this study, clinical trials have begun for a new type of immunotherapy drug that showed 76% who received it saw the growth of their asbestos cancer stop.

The drug is called Pembrolizumab, and it was tested on 25 patients who had mesothelioma in whom regular chemotherapy failed. They were given the new drug and seven patients saw their tumors shrink, while 12 saw no more growth. Just four said their tumor kept growing.

A success rate of 76% is promising, to say the least. A phase II clinical trial has been begun for the drug. At this time, the FDA has not approved any post-first line therapies. But they have approved Pembrolizumab to treat the rare skin cancer metastatic melanoma.


There is a link between mesothelioma and carcinoma. The connection between the two deadly cancers is strong because of how the condition presents itself; the pathophysiology of the cancers are not the same. Rather, the cancers often seem to happen in the same patient and overlap in symptoms.