Mesothelioma is an aggressive and incurable cancer that is caused almost exclusively by exposure to asbestos. The disease is relatively rare and is diagnosed in only about 3,000 people each year in the United States. While the cause of mesothelioma is known, it is important to understand the risk factors that can increase a person’s chances of developing the disease.
The most common factor for mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a group of minerals that were commonly used in insulation, construction, and other industries for decades. Exposure to asbestos fibers can occur when inhaling dust or particles or when fibers are swallowed. People who have worked in industries where asbestos is present are at the highest risk, but family members of workers can also be exposed through secondhand contact.
Smoking is another factor that can increase the risk of mesothelioma. Smoking does not directly cause mesothelioma, but it can make it more likely that people who have been exposed to asbestos will develop the disease. Smoking can also make the symptoms of mesothelioma worse.
Genetics can play a role in a person’s risk of mesothelioma. People with certain genetic mutations may be more likely to develop mesothelioma when exposed to asbestos. People with a family history of mesothelioma are also at a higher risk of developing the disease.
Age is another risk factor for mesothelioma. The disease typically takes decades to develop, so people who were exposed to asbestos a long time ago are more likely to develop mesothelioma than those who were exposed recently.
It is important to understand the risk factors for mesothelioma in order to reduce the chance of developing the disease. Avoiding exposure to asbestos is the best way to reduce the risk of mesothelioma, but quitting smoking and being aware of family history can also help.