Mesothelioma is a rare lung cancer that begins in the mesothelium. The mesothelium is made up of mesothelial cells which line the chest and abdominal cavities as well as the cavity around the heart. The mesothelium also produces a lubrication fluid that allows the organs to move easily. Mesothelioma is most often a cancer associated with large amounts of exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring minerals whose characteristic feature is fibers. Asbestos was commonly used between 1940 and 1980 for its durability, fire resistance and insulating properties, therefore it is found in the majority of homes built before 1990. Asbestos poses little risk unless broken, damaged or mishandled, which results in fibers becoming loose and airborne creating hazard when the dust fibers are inhaled. Besides mesothelioma, all forms of asbestos can potentially cause non cancerous pleural plaques and asbestosis and lung cancer. Mesothelioma affects about 2000-3000 Americans every year. It affects men more than women mostly because of occupational hazards they are exposed to on the job. Occupations at risk include pipefitters, boilermakers, maintenance, machinist and electricians. Non occupational exposures include household contact and building occupants like teachers whose number of deaths are surprisingly high. The risk of developing a mesothelioma is related to how much asbestos a person was exposed to and how long this exposure lasted. People exposed at an early age, for a long period of time, and at higher levels are most likely to develop this cancer. Mesotheliomas take a long time to develop, likely 20 to 50 years after first being exposed. It is important to know that although cigarette smoking does not cause mesothelioma, the combination of the asbestos exposure and smoking increases the chances of contracting the disease.
There are three main types of mesothelioma, pleural, peritoneal, and pericardial mesothelioma. Pleural mesothelioma,
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