Malignant mesothelioma, similar to other types of cancers, is caused when the body’s DNA is damaged. DNA damage occurs in mesothelioma victims when they are exposed to asbestos over a long period of time, typically at job sites that used asbestos-containing products or by using household products for extended periods that contained asbestos. In rare instances, some victims may develop mesothelioma after short-term exposure to asbestos, but in the majority of times, victims were exposed to large amounts asbestos for extended periods of time.
Unlike other forms of cancer, mesothelioma doesn’t have a long list of causes. One of its alternate names is asbestos cancer because its primary cause is long term exposure to asbestos. There is evidence, however, that asbestos is not the only cause, even though it leads as the top reason people develop the debilitating disease.
If you or a loved one suffer from mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, or asbestosis, you may qualify for substantial compensation. Currently, there is over $30 billion in asbestos trust funds, awaiting those who’ve been diagnosed with an asbestos illness. Fill out our form to get a free Financial Compensation Packet. You’ll learn about the top mesothelioma lawyers in your area, how to get paid in 90 days, how to file a claim for the asbestos trust funds, and more.
Primary Cause of Mesothelioma: Asbestos Exposure
Prior to the 1980s, an abundance of homes, buildings, work sites, and materials were built with asbestos and asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) because of its positive properties: heat and fire resistance.
After extensive research and investigations determined that asbestos is extremely harmful to people, the majority of businesses and manufacturers stopped using it. However, this was decades after the masses had already been exposed. In other instances, even though it was determined that asbestos was dangerous, several businesses continued to use it, as their profits would have seriously suffered had it been eliminated.
In 2009, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) confirmed the investigations and findings, and released a statement that informer the public that the primary cause of mesothelioma is asbestos exposure.
The statement indicated that workers who were around asbestos on a daily basis run the highest risk of getting mesothelioma. The most common work sites associated with using asbestos include factories, plants, steel mills, schools, asbestos mines, and asbestos processing plants. Yet, people at home are also at risk, especially if they live in an area close to a natural-occurring asbestos deposit site.
Two other studies performed in 2010 by the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation and the Cancer Institute revealed again, that the main cause of mesothelioma is via asbestos exposure. However, it usually takes a hefty amount of asbestos exposure before a victim contracts mesothelioma.
Once the fibers enter into the system, it’s almost impossible for the body to expel them. The fibers then begin to attack the mesothelium which in turn causes lesions to form. Over time, cells in the damaged tissue become cancerous and form tumors. It can then take up to 50 years for the first symptoms of mesothelioma to surface.
How Asbestos Attacks the Body
People are exposed to asbestos by inhaling the fine fibers that the mineral produces. These fibers then get lodged in the lungs. Asbestos can also be unknowingly swallowed, and the fibers make their way down to the abdominal area. Unfortunately, once asbestos fibers are in the body, as previously mentioned, it’s almost impossible to remove them all. As time moves on, these fibers can cause significant damage to the body, which can lead to mesothelioma. Although scientists and physicians are still trying to determine exactly why asbestos fibers cause cancer, there are several theories that are currently being researched:
- Changes in Genetics: Asbestos can disrupt mesothelial cells, which are naturally-occurring cells in the body. This in turn hinders the functions of the cells, which can lead to cancer.
- Inflammation of Cells: When the body’s cells become irritated, inflammation and scarring occur. Consequently, it leads to cell damage and cancer.
- Free Radicals: Asbestos produces free radicals in the body. Once this happens, DNA can become damaged, which leads to cancer.
- Oncoproteins Growth: When asbestos is in the body, cells begin producing oncoproteins. Oncoproteins hinders normal cell production, which can consequently lead to cancer.
Secondary Cause of Mesothelioma: Drug Interactions
Although rare, some mesothelioma patients have never been exposed to asbestos. Researchers found links between a drug called Thorotrast and mesothelioma.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), patients administered the drug are at an elevated risk of developing lung carcinoma and mesothelioma.
Thorotrast is a mixture of particles that was used primarily in the 1930s and 1940s when performing x-ray imaging. It helped physician produce high quality images, yet unfortunately, the particles remain in the human body.
In addition, Simian Virus 40 (SV40), has been linked to mesothelioma. SV40 is a virus that was found in a few species of monkeys and later found in Polio vaccinations.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 90 million Americans received a Polio vaccination between 1955 through 1963. It was during this time period that the Polio vaccine was contaminated with SV40.
Although humans typically aren’t susceptible to mesothelioma after getting the vaccine, studies have shown that at least 40 patients with mesothelioma also have traces of SV40. More research needs to be done in order to understand how this happens.
Another possible cause of mesothelioma is exposure to erionite. Though much less common than asbestos exposure, erionite is similar to asbestos in that both are naturally-occurring minerals that are harmful when ingested or inhaled.
Furthermore, erionite has been shown to mimic the same process of development as asbestos-related cancers, taking up to 50 years for the first symptoms to appear.
The biggest difference, however, is that erionite is inhaled and ingested primarily through the environment and not in the workplace.
Studies have also shown that erionite poses a higher risk of victims developing mesothelioma and other types of lung cancers when compared to asbestos. Mesothelioma also develops more quickly and with less exposure to erionite as opposed to asbestos.
Erionite can be sometimes found in volcanic ashes that have been modified via weather changes and water. In some rare instances, erionite has been found in water purification systems and softeners. Usually however, erionite is found in natural deposit sites.
There are known erionite deposits throughout the world, including:
In the United States, erionite deposits can be found in:
- North Dakota
Turkey yields the highest amount of erionite. In fact, in the village of Tuzkoy, there is an extremely high amount of malignant mesothelioma victims because of the naturally-occurring yet excessive amount of erionite deposits surrounding the area. Several of the village people use erionite as food storage which further exposes them to risk.
In the United States, scientists are still studying the adverse effects of erionite, particularly in North Dakota. When compared to asbestos, there currently is little information regarding the health risks of erionite.
Although rare, some experts have suggested that certain people may be predisposed genetically to mesothelioma.
In fact, a research funded by the National Institutes of Health (NHI) found a specific mutation gene called the BAP1, that makes the carriers of the gene at great risk for developing both mesothelioma and melanoma of the eyes. These people are also at a much higher risk of developing an asbestos-related disease if they are ever exposed to the mineral.
People with BAP1 are also at risk for developing different kinds of cancers such as breast, ovarian, pancreatic, and renal.
Regardless of the way someone contracts mesothelioma, the symptoms are almost always the same. Keep in mind, though, that some people may exhibit more symptoms than others, and it typically takes decades for the even the most common symptoms of mesothelioma to surface.
Typical symptoms include:
- Chest pain that can fluctuate from minor to severe
- Fluid buildup in the lungs
- Difficulty swallowing and pain when attempting to swallow
- Overwhelming sense of fatigue and lethargy
- Nausea and vomiting
- Unexplained weight loss
- Dyspnea (shortness of breath)
- Dry coughing, wheezing, and/or hacking
- Pleural effusions
Less Common but More Serious Symptoms
- Lung Collapsing
- Coughing up blood
- Nerve damage in the arms
- Blood clots on the hands and arms
- Horner’s Syndrome (rare condition that affects the nerves in the eyes and face)
Getting Legal Help
If you’ve been injured by mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, or asbestosis, keep in mind that there is a good chance that you’ll qualify for considerable compensation. Don’t forget to fill out our form to get our free Financial Compensation Packet, filled with information on the leading asbestos and mesothelioma attorneys in your area. If you have questions or need additional assistance, contact us at 800-793-4540.
Page Reviewed and Edited by Mesothelioma Attorney Paul Danziger
Paul Danziger grew up in Houston, Texas and earned a law degree from Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago. For over 25 years years he has focused on representing mesothelioma cancer victims and others hurt by asbestos exposure. Paul and his law firm have represented thousands of people diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer, recovering hundreds of millions of dollars for injured clients. Every client is extremely important to Paul and he will take every call from clients who want to speak with him. Paul and his law firm handle mesothelioma cases throughout the United States.