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Genetics may be a factor in developing mesothelioma

Significant research has been done to understand the cause and effects of mesothelioma. This aggressive form of cancer forms in the lining of the chest and is primarily caused by exposure to asbestos. As research continues, some scientists are looking into why not everyone exposed to asbestos develops mesothelioma. Could some have a genetic predisposition to the fatal disease?

Thousands of people die every year from mesothelioma. Experts expect cases of asbestos-related diseases to peak in about eight years because millions of people were exposed between 1940 and 1980. Symptoms often do not show up for up to 50 years so researchers are working hard to develop a greater understanding of the disease before the year 2020.

Some scientists have been exploring the possibility that some people are genetically more likely to develop mesothelioma than others. They suggest this because not everyone who had significant contact with asbestos develops the cancer. A gene has been identified as the possible reason for this. If this gene is mutated, a person has increased chances of getting mesothelioma.

Many genetic mutations are inherited from parents and passed down through DNA. However, it is also evident that many healthy cells mutate on their own after being exposed to carcinogenic materials such as asbestos and erionite. Increased contact with these materials increases the likelihood that otherwise healthy cells will mutate, grow out of control and spread.

While asbestos is no longer used in products, it was commonly used in several materials until the dangers associated with it were known. Many people who worked in plumbing, construction and other related industries inhaled high levels of asbestos that were released in the air. Victims of mesothelioma face a difficult struggle with the disease and may be able to recover damages from a company that was responsible for the asbestos exposure.

Source: The Daily News, "Genetic susceptibility to mesothelioma," Norbert Herzog and David Niesel, May 22, 2012

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