Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive cancer that affects the lining around the lungs, heart, or abdomen. While researchers are unsure of what exactly causes mesothelioma, it has been discovered that exposure to asbestos causes the disease to develop. In fact, there are no other known causes of mesothelioma.

Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral with long, thin, separable fibers that possess valuable heat-resistant properties. Unfortunately, asbestos fibers can break off into the air and are dangerous when inhaled or ingested.

How Does Asbestos Cause Mesothelioma?

While exactly how asbestos causes mesothelioma is unknown, there are different theories on what causes the different types of mesothelioma to develop. First, it is theorized that pleural mesothelioma occurs when inhaled asbestos fibers become imbedded in the lining surrounding the lungs. These fibers remain imbedded in the lung lining for years, creating inflammation, which eventually turns into cancerous tumors.

Researchers generally believe that asbestos fibers cause peritoneal (abdominal) mesothelioma in one of two ways. One theory is that asbestos fibers are ingested, and when in the intestinal tract, the fibers may work themselves into the peritoneum. According to others, the asbestos fibers are inhaled and transported through the lymph node system to the abdominal cavity.

Because pericardial mesothelioma is the rarest mesothelioma type, there is very little research on how asbestos causes pericardial mesothelioma. However, the most popular theory is that asbestos fibers are first inhaled into the lungs, and once there, break up into smaller pieces. Those pieces are carried from the lungs into the blood stream. As the fibers are pumped through the heart, they may become lodged in the heart lining causing a chronic inflammation process that eventually leads to cancerous growths.

Other Possible Causes of Mesothelioma

While other possible causes of mesothelioma have been studied, to this day, asbestos exposure is the only known cause of mesothelioma. The risk of developing malignant mesothelioma increases with heavier exposure to asbestos and longer exposure time. However, several malignant mesothelioma cases have been reported where there was very little asbestos exposure or no known asbestos exposure at all. In those cases, the cause of mesothelioma is still unknown.

Have you been diagnosed with a form of mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos? If so, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact us today!

Published November 17, 2011 by