What causes mesothelioma? For many cancers, figuring out the cause for an individual cancer can be very challenging. Why does a non-smoker get lung cancer and a smoker does not? Why do people with very healthy diets sometimes get stomach or colon cancer? It’s very difficult to explain, but mesothelioma is often the exception to the rule.
The medical experts tell us that mesothelioma is almost always caused by asbestos. In fact, mesothelioma is often called the “asbestos caused cancer.” This means that if you were diagnosed with mesothelioma you were likely exposed to asbestos. If fact, many people diagnosed with this cancer have been exposed to asbestos at multiple times from multiple sources throughout their lives.
Other than asbestos, there are a few other things that are believed to cause mesothelioma cancer:
Simian Virus 40
Few People Get Mesothelioma
This does not mean, however, that all people exposed to asbestos will eventually be diagnosed with mesothelioma. In fact, the opposite is true – most people exposed to asbestos will never be diagnosed with mesothelioma. It is estimated that millions of people have been exposed to this carcinogenic mineral, but only about 2,000 people per year out of these millions will ever be diagnosed with the asbestos caused cancer.
Clearly there is something else going on that causes some people to get this diagnosis, while others do not. So why do some people get diagnosed with mesothelioma, while the vast majority of people who were also exposed to asbestos, do not?
Scientists have been trying to answer two questions for years:
Why does mesothelioma occur in people many decades after the person was exposed to asbestos?
Why do most people exposed to asbestos never get mesothelioma?
In fact, the answers to these two questions may be related and involve what this carcinogenic mineral does in the human body.
How Asbestos Causes Mesothelioma
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that is made of billions of needle like fibers. These fibers are resistant to heat and corrosion, and because they are fibers, they can be woven into other products. In fact, the fibers are so small that they are microscopic and millions can fit on the head of a pin.
It is believed that the size and shape of these fibers is what makes asbestos so dangerous. It is thought to work like this – tiny airborne fibers become inhaled or swallowed. Because they are so sharp and small they become embedded in different areas of the body. Somehow they are either trapped or moved to the mesothelial layers of the body, the thin layer of lubricating tissue that surrounds most of the body’s organs. There, it is believed, they create chronic inflammation. Over time this inflammation may lead to mesothelioma in some people.
But, why does it cause mesothelioma in some people and not in others? Some scientists believe that the immune system plays a role in the cause of mesothelioma. One theory is that the immune system, when it is working properly, may be able to stop the creation of cancer. In fact, the immune system has a number of specialized cells which “patrol” the body and find and consume bacteria, viruses, and cancer cells. But, in some people that immune surveillance may not be working as well as it should. This could be because of another disease process, poor diet, or perhaps even stress. Whatever the cause, once the body’s immune system is suppressed and not functioning as it should, the theory is that the asbestos fibers and the chronic inflammation may, over time, result in cancer.
If this is true it would explain several intriguing observations: 1) some mesothelioma patients like Paul Kraus, Ruth Phillips, and others who use immune boosting approaches as part of their care often experience a benefit of some kind and may outlive their prognosis by years or decades; 2) other theorized causes of mesothelioma such as radiation therapy and SV40 can affect the immune system.
While asbestos is the leading cause of mesothelioma, some doctors have suggested that radiation therapy (treatment for another cancer) or a virus called SV40 may also cause or contribute to mesothelioma.
Radiation Therapy and Mesothelioma
Radiation therapy uses ionizing radiation to kill cancer cells. Like chemotherapy, radiation therapy is considered a cytotoxic (cell killing) modality. Wherever the beam is pointed, cells will be killed – both healthy cells and cancer cells. While radiation therapy may cause mesothelioma directly by turning healthy mesothelial cells into mesothelioma cells, another theory is that the radiation simply suppresses a patient’s immune system and once the patient’s immune system is suppressed the last barrier to cancer may have fallen.
SV40 and Mesothelioma
SV40 stands for Simian Virus 40. It is a virus found in some mesothelioma cancers as well as brain cancers, bone cancers and lymphomas. SV40 is a monkey virus that was released into the human population by the polio vaccines. Both the original starting materials (seed stocks) and the growth mediums used kidney cells from monkeys (African Green and Rhesus). These kidney cells were full of monkey viruses so when the vaccine was “harvested” many other extraneous viruses were captured as well. Simian Virus 40 was the 40th one found. According to early researchers like Dr. Bernice Eddy, SV40 caused tumors to grow in laboratory animals.
Obviously, the role of a cancer causing monkey virus from vaccines is a hotly debated topic. Nonetheless, SV40 is considered one of the most carcinogenic viruses known to man and some scientists believe that asbestos is the underlying cause of mesothelioma, but SV40 could play a co-carcinogenic role in some patients.
Is Asbestos Causing Mesothelioma Today?
While there is no comprehensive asbestos ban in the United States, asbestos was voluntarily taken out of most products by the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Nonetheless, older houses and buildings still contain asbestos in joint compound (in walls), floor tiles, acoustic ceilings, roof shingles, and many other building products. Asbestos may also be found in late model cars in brakes, transmissions and clutches. Many products manufactured in other countries and imported into the United States may also contain asbestos. There is no policing or testing of these products. In fact, when an independent cancer organization tested children’s toys imported from China, they found asbestos in at least one product. Therefore, it is possible that asbestos can still be causing mesothelioma today.
However, because of the long latency period, most people diagnosed today were exposed to asbestos decades ago. If trends continue, the frequency of mesothelioma should decline over time. Nonetheless, because asbestos can be found in so many older products and structures it is best to remain vigilant. If you think there is asbestos near you, call in an expert.
The Lungs: Asbestos, Smoking, and Mesothelioma-Scientists in Japan published a study about how asbestos fibers interact with the lungs when they are inhaled by someone. This study, published in Particle and Fibre Toxicology, explored “asbestos ferruginous bodies” (AFBs). When asbestos fibers are inhaled into the lungs, the body forms an iron-rich coat around the fibers. These coated asbestos fibers become AFBs. Mesothelioma after Asbestos Exposure When people inhale asbestos fibers, they can develop an aggressive cancer called malignant pleural mesothelioma. This cancer grows in the lining of the lungs and chest wall. It can often take around 40 years for malignant pleural mesothelioma to begin to grow after asbestos exposure. Imaging studies such as X-rays or CT scans may help in the diagnosis, but the … Continue reading The Lungs: Asbestos, Smoking, and Mesothelioma»
International Mesothelioma Risk for Workers with Asbestos Exposure-Workers around the world are still at risk for asbestos exposure, finds a study conducted by a team of researchers from Brazil. This is concerning because asbestos is very toxic to humans. It can cause mesothelioma and other related diseases in people who inhale or ingest the small fibers. Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer that can take decades to appear after a person is exposed to asbestos. Asbestos has been used since ancient times. It is fire-proof, nearly impossible to corrode, and can be woven into other materials. In modern times, asbestos is often used in manufacturing and construction. Because it is so toxic, many countries around the world have banned the use of asbestos. But there are still other … Continue reading International Mesothelioma Risk for Workers with Asbestos Exposure»
Mesothelioma and the Importance of Asbestos Disposal Management-Asbestos disposal is important to preventing cases of malignant mesothelioma. A review by an international team of researchers outlines three ways that asbestos can be managed safely. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that can be found around the world. It was very popular as a manufacturing material because it is impossible to set on fire or corrode, and it can be woven into other materials. Since it is found naturally in the ground, it is also a cheap material. Despite these attractive qualities, asbestos is dangerous because it is toxic and causes cancer. It is classified as a known human carcinogen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the International Agency for … Continue reading Mesothelioma and the Importance of Asbestos Disposal Management»
A Japanese Asbestos-Cement Plant and Mesothelioma-Living near a facility that uses asbestos can increase your chances of getting mesothelioma. This is the finding of a study published in Cancer Science by researchers from Japan. The researchers looked at people who lived near a large-scale asbestos-cement plant in Amagasaki, Japan. History of Asbestos Use Asbestos is a naturally occurring material that can be found throughout the world. It is often used in manufacturing and construction because it is hard to set on fire and nearly impossible to corrode. It is also inexpensive to use because it does not have to be synthesized in a factory. Asbestos is also toxic and causes cancer in humans who breathe it in. It can cause mesothelioma, which is a cancer … Continue reading A Japanese Asbestos-Cement Plant and Mesothelioma»
Creating an American Mesothelioma Patient Registry-Researchers from the University of Maryland are testing if the United States can create a mesothelioma patient registry. Other countries like Australia and Italy have created mesothelioma registries. These databases help scientists to understand how common mesothelioma is in their country. It also identifies risk factors for developing the disease. Tracking the Disease Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that affects the lining of organs such as the chest, lungs, heart, and abdomen. It is primarily caused by exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that is used in construction and manufacturing industries. Despite being a rare disease, it has been a big public health issue, especially in the United States. Nearly 3,000 individuals are diagnosed each year. A mesothelioma … Continue reading Creating an American Mesothelioma Patient Registry»
Is Mesothelioma Still A Big Problem Worldwide?-Even though the number of people getting mesothelioma and dying from it has gone down in recent years, it is still a big problem in many parts of the world. This is the finding of an international team of scientists. The authors of this study are from South Korea, Sweden, Spain, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. These scientists wanted to find out how many people get mesothelioma and how many people die from it. They also wanted to know how it affects different groups of people based on things like age and where they live. Harmful Use of Asbestos Mesothelioma is a type of cancer caused by asbestos, a harmful material that was used a lot after World War … Continue reading Is Mesothelioma Still A Big Problem Worldwide?»
Tracking Local Mesothelioma Trends-A Canadian study found that tracking trends in mesothelioma at the local level can help officials predict future mesothelioma cases. Most mesothelioma tracking efforts focus on the national scale and monitor cases across a country or region. This study, published in Cancer Causes and Control, looked at mesothelioma cases based on industrial sources of asbestos in Ontario and British Columbia. Growing Number of Cases Asbestos is a toxic material that is used in many commercial and industrial products. It’s durability and heat resistance made it very popular in products like construction materials, textiles, and vehicles. Mesothelioma is a deadly cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. It was first identified as a cancer-causing material in 1977 by the International Agency for … Continue reading Tracking Local Mesothelioma Trends»
New Drug in the Pipeline for Mesothelioma-Researchers in Iran tested the safety of a new version of the drug pemetrexed in patients with non-small cell lung cancer and malignant pleural mesothelioma. This drug is used to treat these patients when they are not able to get surgery for their cancer. The researchers were able to determine that pemetrexed is safe in patients with non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer. Treatment Choices Malignant pleural mesothelioma is a lung-related cancer like non-small cell lung cancer. It is caused by exposure to asbestos. Treatment for mesothelioma usually involves chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery. Patients may receive more than one type of treatment. This is called multimodal therapy. Pemetrexed is a chemotherapy drug that interrupts the cell replication process that helps … Continue reading New Drug in the Pipeline for Mesothelioma»
Countries Ban Asbestos to Reduce Mesothelioma Deaths-A new study published in BMJ Global Health has found that most countries ban asbestos to reduce mesothelioma cases. This study was an international collaboration. Authors were based in research centers located in Japan, Taiwan, and Australia. The authors found a strong relationship between asbestos bans and pre-ban mesothelioma burden in the country. Countries with a high number of mesothelioma cases were more likely to ban the use of asbestos. Asbestos Causes Cancer in Humans Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. The Global Burden of Diseases Study estimates that 29,300 people around the world die each year from mesothelioma. Asbestos is a naturally occurring material found throughout the world. It is almost impossible to set on … Continue reading Countries Ban Asbestos to Reduce Mesothelioma Deaths»
Asbestos Type Influences Mesothelioma Development-A new report from South Korea shows that the type of asbestos exposure can influence the development of mesothelioma. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that has been found throughout the world. It was once called the “magic mineral” because of its seemingly magical properties. All these properties pale in comparison to the fact that asbestos is toxic and causes cancer in humans. Asbestos causes mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. Asbestos is classified as a Class I Carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Sixty countries have bans on asbestos, but many developing countries still use this toxic material. South Korea, where this study took place, was a major consumer of asbestos in the late 1900s. It … Continue reading Asbestos Type Influences Mesothelioma Development»
“My Name is Paul Kraus and I Have Survived Mesothelioma for Over 20 Years.”
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