Who Gets Mesothelioma?

After hearing the words “you’ve got cancer,” any kind of cancer, it’s just human nature to wonder: “How did this happen? Was it my diet, not exercising, stress—what did I do wrong?” When it comes to mesothelioma, make no mistake, there’s only one cause: exposure to asbestos.
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What Is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral. Its fibers are extremely strong and heat-resistant, making them an attractive “ingredient” to be used in the production of many building materials and industrial products.

Without even knowing it, most of us have been around asbestos at some point in our lives. While it may only take one asbestos fiber to cause mesothelioma, those who have experienced continued exposure to asbestos over time are at higher risk for developing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.

Holding Asbestos
Asbestos fibers used in insulation.

Where Are People Exposed to Asbestos?

Home Exposure to Asbestos
At Home
If your house was built before 1980, there is a chance some of the products used in its construction contain asbestos. Asbestos fibers can sometimes be found in insulation, wallboards, roofing shingles, flooring, ceiling tiles, and fireplaces.
Work Asbestos Exposure
At Work
Today, asbestos-containing products in the workplace are highly regulated—but it didn’t used to be that way. In fact, it wasn’t that long ago when these dangerous materials surrounded all kinds of people doing all kinds of work—from serving their country to fixing cars.
Second Hand Asbestos Exposure
Just like secondhand smoke can cause lung cancer, secondhand asbestos exposure can cause mesothelioma. One common way this can happen is when family members are exposed to asbestos fibers — often appearing as dust — brought home on a loved one’s work clothes.

What Are the Riskiest Occupations and Work Environments?

People who worked hard their whole lives could just now be discovering that the career that brought them so much pride is the cause of their mesothelioma diagnosis. That’s because symptoms of mesothelioma may not appear for 20 to 50 years after exposure. Navy veterans and folks who work or worked in the following occupations are often at higher risk:

  • Auto mechanics
  • Construction workers
  • Firefighters
  • Machinists
  • Military
  • Oil refinery workers
  • Plumbers/pipefitters
  • Railroad workers
  • Shipyard workers
  • Steel mill workers
  • Welders/foundry workers

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