Thursday, June 15, 2017

Mesothelioma Cancer & Causes

What is mesothelioma? Mesothelioma is an aggressive malignancy that attacks the protective tissue lining of our internal organs. It is also considered a rare form of cancer as there are less than 10,000 cases per year. To be closer to the actual number, there are roughly 2,000 cases of mesothelioma diagnoses per year in the United States alone. The United Kingdom and Canada are currently the leaders of mesothelioma diagnoses, standing around 2,700 cases per year. There are two common types of mesothelioma and two rare types. View the picture below as it lists the four types of mesothelioma as well as the percentage of diagnoses.


Mesothelioma Cancer & Causes



What causes mesothelioma? Doctors and researchers have linked the cause of mesothelioma to a natural mineral known as asbestos. As mentioned earlier, mesothelioma is a form of cancer that attacks the tissue lining of our internal organs, this tissue lining is known as the “mesothelium” to which, mesothelioma got it’s name. Since nearly every case of mesothelioma has been linked to asbestos exposure, many doctors and researchers have attributed mesothelioma to tiny asbestos fibers getting lodged into the mesothelium, disrupting natural cell growth, and causing mesothelioma.

Theories that link asbestos to mesothelioma

Mesothelioma has a latency period of around 20-50 years so no research has actually been done to see and show exactly how asbestos fibers cause mesothelioma, but several theories have been formulated in an attempt to explain how this happens. These theories attempt to explain how asbestos fibers cause changes in genetic makeup and eventual development of cancerous tumors. They are as follows:



  • The needle-like nature and microscopic size of asbestos fibers prevents the immune system cells from clearing them out. As such, asbestos fibers are lodged in the mesothelial lining where they interfere with the normal cell division.
  • Once inhaled, asbestos fibers irritate cells of mesothelium leading to swelling. Eventually, this causes cellular damage and subsequent development of a tumor.
  • Asbestos fibers influence the overall production of the molecules that cause damage to DNA. This causes disruption in cellular production leading to tumors’ growth.
  • Asbestos fibers influence production of the protein that leads to mutation of the regular cells of the mesothelium leading to formation of tumor cells. 



Generally, researchers agree that warning signs and symptoms of mesothelioma do not appear until 10 to 50 years pass after asbestos exposure regardless of how they cause the disease. Usually, doctors and patients mistake mesothelioma symptoms for symptoms of common colds and other diseases. Here is a great video that talks about the warning signs and symptoms of mesothelioma.


How mesothelioma develops


In general, mesothelioma starts when a cell undergoes genetic mutation. This mutation causes unregulated growth and multiplication of cells. How exactly asbestos fibers cause the initial genetic mutation is not clear yet. However, researchers note that the interaction of several factors may trigger this mutation. These include lifestyle choices and the health condition of an individual. 

Asbestos exposure:


Asbestos exposure can happen in different ways. However, the most common ways through which people get asbestos exposure include:

  • Occupational exposure: This exposure is common among people who work on asbestos containing products or materials.
  • Secondary exposure: This happens among family members whose loved ones work on asbestos containing products. These carry asbestos fibers on their clothes.
  • Environmental exposure: This occurs to people who live near places where asbestos was mined. Usually, this occurs when airborne fibers of asbestos float to the nearby communities.   

Types of asbestos

Asbestos can be categorized in numerous ways. However, two types of asbestos (amphibole and serpentine) are more likely to be the cause of mesothelioma rather than Chrysotile, Amosite and Crocidolite. Serpentine are wavy fibers that are found in about 95% of commercial asbestos products and due to their shape, it is possible to breathe serpentine fibers in the body but also out of the body. Amphibole fibers on the other hand are rigid and sharp and as such, they have a tendency to lodge themselves into the body tissue with ease making them more likely to cause mesothelioma.  Regardless of the type of asbestos that you or a loved one may have been exposed to, it is advisable that you visit a mesothelioma specialist for a checkup and screening as soon as possible. 
  



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