Peritoneal Mesothelioma Causes

Mesothelioma is a cancer of the mesothelium, the delicate membranes that line the lungs, pericardium and perineum. Though rare in the general population, mesothelioma is more common among people who've exposed to asbestos in their workplace or their homes. One study found that nearly six percent of workers exposed to asbestos will go to develop the disease. Family members are also at high risk for developing the disease through second hand exposure to asbestos.

Mesothelioma has a long incubation period. The interval between asbestos exposure and diagnosis of the disease is typically between 20 and 50 years.

Asbestos and Mesothelioma

Asbestos is the name given to a group of six naturally occurring, fibrous minerals that are strong, lightweight and resistant to fire, electricity and most corrosive chemicals. These properties make asbestos an excellent insulator, and it was widely used in this capacity through the middle of the 20th century. Asbestos was a component in cement, concrete, bricks, paint, drywall, pipes, gaskets, flooring and roofing. Asbestos also had many specialized industrial applications as well. For example, it was used in brake pads, shoes and clutch discs through the beginning of the 1990s to absorb the brunt of the friction necessary to bring a motor vehicle to a full stop.

When workers cut or shaped asbestos-containing materials, they released needle-sharp, microscopic asbestos filaments into the air. People working in these environments inhaled these particles into their lungs where they become trapped, causing cellular damage, inflammation and scarring.

While the exact mechanism through which asbestos triggers mesothelioma is not known, a recent study from the National Cancer Institute and the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation suggests the inhalation of asbestos fibers causes the release of a protein known as HMGB1 (high-mobility group box 1 protein). HMGB1, in turn, sets off a chronic inflammatory reaction that activates tumor growth.

Mesothelioma Risk Factors

According to the National Cancer Institute, several factors determine an individual's response to asbestos exposure.

  • Dose: Asbestos-related diseases including mesothelioma are known to be dose dependent. The more asbestos an individual is exposed to, the higher his or her risk of contracting mesothelioma.
  • Duration: The highest risk of developing the disease is through lengthy exposure.
  • Types of asbestos fibers: Mesothelioma patients more often have a history of amphibole asbestos exposure than they do of chrysotile asbestos exposure, suggesting some types of asbestos fibers may be more dangerous than others.
  • Individual risk factors: Though individuals who smoke aren't at higher risk for developing mesothelioma, they are at higher risk for developing other cancers such as asbestos-related lung cancer.
  • Source of the exposure

Who's at risk for developing mesothelioma?

The individuals at highest risk for developing mesothelioma are individuals who were exposed to asbestos on a regular, ongoing basis, most often in an occupational setting. These individuals include construction workers, shipyard workers, pipefitters and others. If you or a loved one has a history of asbestos exposure, seek a medical evaluation as soon as possible to rule out mesothelioma.