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The Link Between Malignant Mesothelioma and Other Cancers

814382_xray1If you have malignant mesothelioma, evidence suggests that you have a higher-than-normal risk of also developing another type of cancer, either before or after your mesothelioma diagnosis.

The research was carried out by a team of international scientists who examined the cases of more than 5,000 mesothelioma patients around the world.

Second Primary Cancers After Mesothelioma

In the first study of both secondary cancers after mesothelioma, and vice versa, the team first looked at cancer that developed after mesothelioma in 3,672 survivors of pleural mesothelioma and 895 peritoneal mesothelioma survivors.

Among these patients, they found a higher incidence of kidney cancer within a year after a mesothelioma diagnosis. For all other cancers, although the incidence was still higher than normal, development typically happened a year or more after mesothelioma diagnosis.

Primary Cancer Before Mesothelioma Diagnosis

When the researchers looked at cancers occurring in the reverse order, they found a similar pattern. The team found 431 people who developed pleural mesothelioma and 88 who got peritoneal mesothelioma after being diagnosed with a different primary cancer.

In these cases, the people who had kidney cancer first, were the most likely to receive a mesothelioma diagnosis within a yearIn contrast, people with other types of cancers were more likely to receive a mesothelioma diagnosis more than a year after their original primary cancer.

Mesothelioma and Cancer Risk

Based on these findings, researchers drew some conclusions about the possible causal links  between malignant mesothelioma and other types of malignancies.

“We found a bidirectional association of pleural malignant mesothelioma with kidney cancer for overall and for <1 year follow-up, suggesting the involvement of germline BAP1 mutations and increased medical surveillance,” writes researcher Tianhui Chen, a molecular epidemiologist with the Institute of Occupational DIseases in Hangzhou, China.

At the same time, Dr. Chen and his colleagues say the the bidirectional association between pleural mesothelioma and other cancers is more likely to be linked to shared genetic or environmental risk factors.

Asbestos is the primary cause of malignant mesothelioma and has also been implicated in lung cancer, asbestosis, and the development of pleural plaques in the lungs. Research is ongoing on the link between asbestos exposure and gastrointestinal, colorectal, breast, prostate, gallbladder, kidney, and certain blood cancers.


Chen, T, et al, “Risk of second primary cancers after malignant mesothelioma and vice versa”, May 31, 2016, Cancer Letters, Epub ahead of print

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