How Asbestos Causes Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a fatal medical condition where cancer cells attack normal cells in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, heart, and testes. While there are other factors such as age, genetics, smoking, overall physical health, and obesity, which makes the risk of developing mesothelioma greater.

How is Mesothelioma Caused?

Mesothelioma is generally known in the scientific and medical community to be caused by prolonged asbestos exposure. Asbestos is a material used in hundreds of thousands of industrial applications because its chemical properties provide many benefits. However, asbestos also has a tendency to disintegrate into microscopic fibers that are just a few micrometers thin but remain relatively long.

When asbestos is inhaled into the body or swallowed, many of the fibers may become lodged deep within the body’s organ tissues. Over time, the physical forces of breathing may cause them to disintegrate into even smaller pieces embedding deep within the body.

Remarkably, these pieces can become so small that they shrink down below the level of the cell and can become entangled within our cell’s nuclei. Here, they can become entangled within our DNA.

Our body naturally undergoes a process called mitosis to constantly replace dead or dying cells with new healthy ones. Mitosis consists of replicating DNA and then dividing the existing cell into two. Asbestos fibers that become microscopic enough to embed themselves within cellular DNA interfere with the process of mitosis, causing mutations.

These mutated cells can become mesothelioma cancer cells, replicating aggressively and causing rapid death with a limited chance of survival.

Other Factors of Mesothelioma and Exposure to Asbestos

Asbestos exposure is the most commonly known risk factor for mesothelioma, but other carcinogens potentially exist:

  • Asbestos-like mineral fibers, such as fluoro-edenite
  • Carbon nanotubes
  • Radiation
  • Certain viruses
  • Smoking (a contributing factor)
  • Heavy doses of nickel
  • Beryllium
  • Silica

Note: that the above potential causes are not nearly as well documented as asbestos-related mesothelioma, marking them as comparatively controversial in the medical community. Patients may also develop mesothelioma through a combination of chance, genetics or lifestyle.

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