IN THIS ARTICLE
The major known cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. A known history of asbestos exposure is present in 70-80% of all cases of mesothelioma. Asbestos likely causes cancer by physically irritating the cells. When asbestos fibers are breathed in, they reach the ends of the small airways and penetrate into the pleura (lining of the lung). These fibers may then injure mesothelial cells of the pleura and eventually cause mesothelioma.
The risk of developing mesothelioma rises with the quantity of asbestos exposure. However, genetic factors also play a role in determining who develops the condition. This is probably the reason why all people exposed to high levels of asbestos do not develop mesothelioma.
Although smoking has not been associated with the development of mesothelioma, the combination of smoking and asbestos exposure significantly increases a person's risk of developing pleural mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma also has been linked to the following:
Winston W Tan, MD
Shehnaz Shaikh, MD