Like any other cancer, mesothelioma can be scary. People who hear about it in the news or on TV, or who see their friends and coworkers struggle with it, worry if it will happen to them.
The truth is that the biggest risk factor for mesothelioma is asbestos exposure. People who were exposed to asbestos on the job are most at risk. But people who live with workers who were exposed are at risk, too. And people with certain genetic risk factors can also face increased risk.
Asbestos Exposure Is the Primary Risk Factor
Asbestos exposure is the primary risk factor for developing mesothelioma. While no amount of exposure is safe, the people who are most at risk are people who were exposed to asbestos over time. As the years pass, small asbestos fibers accumulate in the body, causing inflammation and damage. This can lead to mesothelioma cancer.
People who have worked at skilled labor and mechanical jobs are most at risk:
- Construction workers: Home and commercial renovation and remodeling can be dangerous because many building materials contain asbestos. In the past, people didn’t realize that asbestos was dangerous. They used asbestos in homes, hospitals, schools and other buildings. The asbestos is disturbed during remodeling work. It becomes airborne and puts construction workers at risk.
- Factory workers: In the past, many factory workers had to work in small spaces with poor ventilation. This was a problem because the factories they worked in and the machines they dealt with were built with asbestos insulation. The poor ventilation meant high concentrations of asbestos in the air.
- Shipyard workers: People thought that asbestos was an ideal material for the shipbuilding industry. They used it to insulate ship boilers, steam pipes and other systems. The shipyard workers were exposed, and so were workers aboard the ships.
- U.S. military veterans: Many U.S. military veterans were exposed to asbestos. In fact, veterans file nearly 30 percent of all mesothelioma lawsuits in the United States. All branches of the military used the product. From the 1900s to the 1970s, military aircraft, ships, vehicles and tanks all contained asbestos.
Secondary Exposure in the Home
Some people were exposed to asbestos just because they lived with someone who was exposed on the job. A husband or father, for example, brought asbestos fibers home from work on his clothes, shoes and tools.
Genetics Plays a Part, Too
Although asbestos exposure is the primary risk factor, studies show that some genetic risk factors can play a part. In a 2011 study at the University of Hawaii Cancer Center, scientists discovered a mutation in a BAP1 gene that they believed made people more likely to develop mesothelioma and another form of cancer, melanoma of the eye.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, talking with a lawyer can be helpful. Your attorney can help you connect the dots between asbestos exposure and illness and can help you hold the right parties accountable. Contact a lawyer at Ted B. Lyon & Associates for help.