Malignant mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive form of cancer that primarily results from long-term asbestos exposure. Typically, this exposure takes place in the workplace, as asbestos is present in many products, such as insulation, and work environments, such as mining and construction sites. Radiation treatment for other cancers also may result in malignant mesothelioma in some cases.
How you get malignant mesothelioma is less important than recognizing the symptoms of this serious disease and getting prompt treatment. Although many people who have significant asbestos exposure never develop malignant mesothelioma, you can contract the disease even decades after your asbestos exposure. Understanding how malignant mesothelioma develops in a person’s body can be crucial.
Developing Malignant Mesothelioma
According to the American Cancer Society, malignant mesothelioma—like all forms of cancer—develops when damage occurs to our DNA. DNA is the chemical in our cells that tells them how to function. In some cases, damage to our DNA can cause cells to grow abnormally and rapidly, which can lead to cancer.
About 80% of people who develop malignant mesothelioma had asbestos exposure, typically at work. Workers exposed to asbestos and its dust over time tend to breathe in and even swallow asbestos fibers. This allows the fibers to travel to the pleura—which is the mesothelium, or thin lining of tissue, surrounding the lungs and chest cavity—and can lead to pleural mesothelioma. Pleural mesothelioma, or mesothelioma of the lungs, is the most common form of the disease. Likewise, when workers swallow asbestos fibers, those fibers can affect the peritoneum—which is the mesothelium that lines the abdomen—and cause peritoneal mesothelioma.
Malignant mesothelioma can also result from receiving radiation treatments for different kinds of cancers. Although radiation is a less common cause of mesothelioma, it does cause the disease in some people. When you receive radiation treatments, the radiation can damage the DNA of cells, which leads to abnormal and uncontrolled growth.
Asbestos Exposure and Malignant Mesothelioma
Asbestos is a mineral that naturally occurs outdoors, so many people are exposed to some asbestos from the dust in rocks, soil, water, and air in some areas. Since most people never develop mesothelioma, particularly at these low levels of exposure, asbestos in the natural environment is typically not a risk factor for mesothelioma.
Traditionally, many industries used asbestos to manufacture products due to its high resistance to fire and heat. For example, companies used asbestos in insulation, brakes and other car parts, and construction materials. Once medical experts realized the link between asbestos and malignant mesothelioma, however, the use of asbestos in most industries decreased dramatically.
Nonetheless, many older homes still contain asbestos, and some products do as well. In addition, millions of people have already been exposed to asbestos, primarily in their jobs. For instance, many people who have worked for years in the automotive, mining, railroad, and construction industries have likely had significant asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma may not develop for up to 50 years after asbestos exposure, although most people do not ultimately end up with mesothelioma. Those who not only have close contact with asbestos but also some genetic risk factors seem to have the largest chance of developing mesothelioma.
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Preventing Malignant Mesothelioma
Since how you get malignant mesothelioma depends primarily on your asbestos exposure, limiting your exposure may be the most effective way to avoid developing mesothelioma. Mayo Clinic advises that various industries require exposure to asbestos, even today—so being aware of those risks is key.
Utilizing personal protective equipment (PPE) and taking other safeguards can contribute to a reduced risk of mesothelioma. If your employer failed to provide you with appropriate PPE, require that you wear PPE, or take similar precautions, you may have a claim for compensation against your employer if you later develop mesothelioma. Likewise, if your employer continues to use asbestos-laden products or otherwise refuses to allow you to minimize your exposure to asbestos, the company may be liable if you later develop this disease.
Working in remodeling and/or construction are two industries in which you may suffer asbestos exposure. For example, you may be working in older homes and buildings that contain significant amounts of asbestos. To avoid the risks of exposure, your employer should be testing the air and providing PPE. Employers who fail to do so may be liable if you develop malignant mesothelioma in the future.
Call Us About Your Mesothelioma Claim
If you have developed malignant mesothelioma, you and your family may be eligible to pursue a claim for compensation related to your injuries. If your former employer failed to protect or warn you of the dangers of prolonged asbestos exposure, you may have a legal claim. To learn more about your options, contact Pintas & Mullins Law Firm today at (800) 794-0444 for a free consultation.