Causes of Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a cancer of the mesothelium, the protective single-cell covering the lung, abdominal, and heart cavities, as well as the scrotum. This cancer spreads rapidly, and is not easy to stop once it is present.

Causes of Mesothelioma

Asbestos Exposure

The leading cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. This exposure may occur 20 to 30 years before the symptoms appear. Exposure of only one to three months is able to cause mesothelioma. Asbestos is able to help change normal cells to cancer cells. The exact method is not known, but is believed to involve damage to the DNA of the cell. Asbestos fibers enter the pleural (lung) cavity through lung tissue, inhaled from the air. The fibers may also be taken in through swallowing, infecting the abdominal area. The fibers can also be transported through the lymphatic system to body cavities.

Once the fibers are in mesothelium tissue, they are able to adhere to portions of cell DNA. This affinity can lead to changing chromosome 22 into a single chromosome instead of the usual pair. Damage has also been observed in the arms of other chromosomes. It is also clear that cancer cell DNA can inhibit tumor suppressor genes.

Asbestos exposure has been shown to reduce the action of cell macrophages, resulting in an increase in cancer-causing radicals. These contribute to the formation of cancer cells by helping to also damage cell DNA. Asbestos has been shown to facilitate entry of these radicals into the mesothelium cells. The asbestos exposure can also decrease immunosuppressive actions of the body, preventing the body from defending itself against tumor cells and radicals.

Once the cells have become cancer cells, they lead to rapid production of tumors that block bodily functions, such as breathing. These tumors can block major blood vessels leading to tissue death or blood clots in major arteries. The body is unable to provide proper nutrition. These changes to body organs lead to the symptoms experienced by the cancer patient.

Non-Asbestos Causes

Non-asbestos causes of mesothelioma are rare, but have been confirmed in studies done on cancer victims over the years. There are three main causes when mesothelioma is not caused by asbestos exposure:

  • Simian Virus 40: This is a rhesus monkey virus that was exposed to humans through contaminated polio vaccines. Exposure to the virus has been linked to mesothelioma.
  • Radiation: Certain individuals that were exposed to high amounts of radiation have also come down with mesothelioma. It is postulated that the radiation damaged the cell DNA.
  • Mineral Fibers: Other mineral fibers exist in nature and seem to act in a way similar to the asbestos fiber such as erionite. Exposure to these fibers can result in mesothelioma.

Smoking is not a cause of mesothelioma cancer, but it has been shown to clearly speed up the rate of lung infection. This is due to the damage smoking does to lung tissues. Anyone who has been exposed to any of the causes of mesothelioma should absolutely stop smoking.

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