Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive form of cancer that primarily affects the lining of the lungs (pleural mesothelioma) but can also occur in the lining of the abdomen (peritoneal mesothelioma), heart (pericardial mesothelioma), or testicles (testicular mesothelioma). This cancer is primarily caused by exposure to asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral once widely used in various industries due to its heat-resistant and insulating properties.
Here are some key points about who is at risk for developing mesothelioma:
- Occupational Exposure: Individuals who have worked in industries such as construction, mining, manufacturing, automotive repair, insulation installation, shipbuilding, and asbestos mining are at a higher risk due to potential exposure to asbestos fibers in their workplace.
- Secondhand Exposure: Family members of workers exposed to asbestos can also be at risk due to the fibers being carried home on the clothing of the exposed worker.
- Environmental Exposure: In some cases, people living near asbestos mines or areas with naturally occurring asbestos deposits may face a higher risk of exposure.
- Military Service: Veterans, especially those serving in the Navy, may have an increased risk of mesothelioma due to asbestos use in ships and other military equipment in the past.
- Individuals in Specific Professions: Certain occupations with potential exposure to asbestos-containing materials, such as firefighters, may have an elevated risk due to encountering asbestos in older buildings during fires or rescue operations.
- Genetic Factors: While rare, some studies suggest a genetic predisposition to mesothelioma, though the primary cause remains exposure to asbestos.
It’s essential to note that mesothelioma often takes decades to develop after the initial exposure to asbestos. Therefore, individuals exposed to asbestos many years ago might only show symptoms of mesothelioma later in life.
While asbestos use has declined significantly in many countries due to its recognized health risks, cases of mesothelioma can still occur today due to past exposure. Early detection, treatment, and ongoing research into new therapies remain crucial in improving outcomes for individuals diagnosed with mesothelioma. If you suspect exposure to asbestos or experience symptoms such as chest pain, difficulty breathing, or unexplained weight loss, it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional promptly.