Mesothelioma Causes

A mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer mainly caused by exposure to asbestos. Research has shown that nine out of ten cases of mesothelioma are a result of prolonged exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a tiny, fibrous natural mineral that is found in the rock mines of several countries. The fibers are as solid as metal and are extremely resilient to chemical components and heat. Though asbestos is the number one cause of mesothelioma, other factors can also combine with the dreaded mineral to increase the likelihood of the disease occurring in the human body.


Increased exposure to asbestos is the primary cause of mesothelioma. When asbestos fibers enter the human lungs (the pleura lung lining), they are known to physically irritate and injure the mesothelial cells. This eventually leads to the progression of mesothelioma in the body. The likelihood of developing mesothelioma increases with a higher amount of exposure to asbestos. Though exposure to asbestos is most likely to cause mesothelioma, the genetic factors of an individual also determine whether a person is likely to develop the condition. It is for this reason that not everyone who is exposed to increased levels of asbestos develops mesothelioma.

The dangerous asbestos fibers, when swallowed, can also latch on to the digestive system and gradually drift into the membrane outlining the abdomen, where they are known to cause inflammation. Thus, people who experience exposure to asbestos for prolonged periods including construction workers, electricians, shipbuilders, plumbers and people living in close vicinity to asbestos factories are at a high risk of developing mesothelioma. Even household members of people who work in asbestos settings and who subsequently carry the particles on their clothes are known to have been affected by mesothelioma. The disease is not contagious and cannot be caused unless one comes in contact with the asbestos either through direct exposure or through people who carry the fibers on their person.

Mesothelioma does not generally develop until 20 to 50 years after asbestos exposure, so it becomes difficult to determine the precise cause of the disease. Since it is a prolonged latency duration malignant cancer, mesothelioma stays dormant for decades before it is detected in the advanced stages of the disease.


Though smoking is not directly associated with the cause and progression of mesothelioma in the human body, it can be lethal when combined with asbestos exposure. Together with asbestos, smoking can drastically intensify the risk of pleural mesothelioma. Therefore, non-smokers are less likely to develop the condition than regular smokers.

Therapeutic Radiations

Mesothelioma has also been known to develop in some people who have been exposed to therapeutic radiation that utilizes thorium dioxide.