Mesothelioma Risk Factors – What You Need to Know 2024

Mesothelioma is a serious and rare cancer. While most people may not come into contact with mesothelioma risk factors daily, some people do not have that luxury. If you inhale asbestos fibers, they can stay in your body for years before you develop a symptom. When you discover that you have had asbestos exposure, it is wise to seek medical assistance to mitigate asbestos-related illnesses as soon as possible. Early detection can be vital.

What Is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma develops in the mesothelium – the thin layer of tissue that lines various organs in the body. There are multiple types of mesothelioma that each affect different parts of the mesothelium.

  • Pleural mesothelioma attacks the lining of the lungs.
  • Peritoneal mesothelioma acts on the abdominal lining.
  • Pericardial mesothelioma impacts the lining of the heart.
  • Testicular mesothelioma affects the lining of the testicles.

While the most common type is pleural mesothelioma, each type of cancer is serious and life-threatening.

What Causes Mesothelioma?

The main cause of mesothelioma is asbestos exposure. Long-term exposure is typically vital to the development of mesothelioma, but any prolonged contact with asbestos can lead to adverse health effects. Asbestos is a conglomerate of naturally occurring materials that are manufactured together for construction, shipbuilding, and other purposes.

When someone inhales or ingests asbestos fibers, the fibers can lodge themselves in organ linings. While this may sound harmless to some, these fibers can lead to chronic inflammation and even cancer in some cases.

Understanding Asbestos Exposure

While asbestos was once commonplace, regulations these days have decreased the amount in circulation and in places where people could come into contact with it. Despite this, some people who were exposed to asbestos in the past have a chance of developing illnesses now, decades later.

Outside of Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos exposure is the leading cause of mesothelioma, but researchers have explored other potential contributors. Some less prevalent risk factors include:

  • Erionite: The mineral erionite is similar to asbestos in structure and is also a fibrous material. Research has shown that erionite can also cause mesothelioma, although erionite exposure is limited to specific regions of the world with natural mineral deposits. There are villages with erionite-containing rocks that have documented cases of mesothelioma.
  • Radiation Therapy: There are rare cases in which radiation therapy for cancers like lymphoma has been linked to mesothelioma development. The association between this therapy and mesothelioma is still unclear, with research remaining in progress. It is important to note that people believe that the benefits of radiation therapy significantly outweigh the risk of developing mesothelioma.
  • Simian Virus 40 (SV40): This virus has been used to develop vaccines. Although it is generally harmless to humans, some scientists have suggested a link between it and the development of mesothelioma in other animals.

However, the evidence for this link is inconclusive. Research is ongoing.

Examining Latency and Individual Risk

Mesothelioma development is difficult to understand. Unlike some other diseases, mesothelioma’s development is unpredictable for reasons such as:

Latency Period

The time between the original asbestos exposure and the onset of mesothelioma symptoms can be decades. This latency period makes it complex to determine the exact cause of the disease in many cases. Additionally, some individuals have high levels of asbestos exposure for extended periods of time and never develop mesothelioma, which tends to suggest the importance of other factors.

Idiopathic Mesothelioma

While asbestos exposure is a known leading cause of mesothelioma, some individuals have no clear history of exposure to asbestos, erionite, or any known mesothelioma-causing factors. Medical professionals term these cases idiopathic mesothelioma. Although not yet identified, researchers are exploring genetic makeups and environmental factors that may have a role in mesothelioma development.


Q: Who Is Prone to Mesothelioma? What Is the Relative Risk of Mesothelioma?

A: Mesothelioma’s causes are not well understood, but people tend to agree on who is prone to developing mesothelioma. People who have long-term workplace asbestos exposure have a high risk of mesothelioma development. Occupations with these workplace conditions include:

  • Miners
  • Railroad and automotive workers
  • Factory workers
  • Gas mask manufacturers
  • Construction workers
  • Insulation installers and manufacturers
  • Shipbuilders

Mesothelioma is also prone to affect men more than women, and sufferers tend to be men over retirement age.

Q: What Is the Main Cause of Mesothelioma?

A: The leading cause of mesothelioma is asbestos exposure. Most people who have mesothelioma have been exposed to asbestos in some capacity. The inhalation or ingestion of asbestos fibers leads to inflammation and scarring, which can promote or contribute to cell damage. When damaged cells grow uncontrollably within the mesothelium, they can become cancerous in someone’s body and develop into mesothelioma.

Q: What Is the Relative Risk of Mesothelioma?

A: The relative risk of mesothelioma describes the likelihood of someone developing mesothelioma compared to someone who has not been exposed to asbestos.

Someone who has not been exposed to asbestos has a meager chance of developing mesothelioma. However, the more asbestos fibers that someone inhales or ingests, the higher their relative risk. In addition to the amount of asbestos fibers, the length of exposure, the types of asbestos, and an individual’s genetics can also increase their relative risk.

Q: What Are the Odds of Getting Mesothelioma?

A: If you never come in contact with asbestos, the odds that you get mesothelioma are miniscule, as asbestos is the cancer’s primary cause.

If your chances of long-term asbestos exposure are high, your odds of developing mesothelioma in the future are higher than they would otherwise be. Even so, after long-term exposure, mesothelioma can take decades to manifest, and there are multiple types of mesothelioma: pleural, testicular, pericardial, and peritoneal.

Understand the Mesothelioma Risk Factors to Mitigate Your Risk

If you have concerns about asbestos exposure, you should seek medical attention immediately. A prompt diagnosis can significantly improve your prognosis. While early diagnosis and treatment are important for mesothelioma patients, understanding the risk factors can help you avoid developing the disease altogether.

If you or someone you love is concerned about your risk of developing mesothelioma, a medical professional can likely address these concerns. If you have received a diagnosis, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact Wallace & Graham today for a consultation.