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.

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.


Where Have People Been Exposed to Asbestos?

In the Military

Men and women who served in the U.S. armed forces, especially in the Navy, may have worked in dangerous environments without knowing. Asbestos-containing products were used in every military branch and found throughout Navy ships, construction materials, protective gear, and shipyards, to name a few. As a group, veterans make up a majority of the diagnosed mesothelioma cases each year.

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 auto mechanics, to firefighters, to the construction workers who handled products like insulation, wallboard, roofing shingles, flooring and ceiling tiles.


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. For example, if your husband’s work environment contained asbestos, and you washed his dusty clothes, you may have been exposed too.