Asbestos exposure is the main one of mesothelioma causes. Asbestos is natural substance, a mineral that has been mined from rock in many countries for generations. Its very small fibers are extremely strong but flexible and can be formed into cotton-like materials, added to mixtures, or used in other manufacturing processes. Asbestos has been in use since early times because of its high resistance to heat and chemicals.
If you are actively using asbestos—or later, if you damage or disturb it—you breathe in the fine fibers, which easily penetrate your lungs. These tiny fibers settle deep into the airways of the lung and cannot be breathed or coughed out. Your body's own efforts to break down these fibers or eliminate them can cause inflammation in your lung. Then later the fibers work their way into the pleura (the protective membrane around the lungs), and eventually a pleural effusion (fluid in the lungs) develops—a symptom of pleural mesothelioma.
Asbestos cancer mesothelioma
Unfortunately, some of those who worked with asbestos develop the cancer called mesothelioma years later—even up to 50 years later. This most common of mesothelioma causes does its damage quietly and unnoticed until decades after exposure. You may not even be able to report this exposure because you don't remember it after so many years. That's one reason it can be difficult to get an accurate mesothelioma diagnosis from your doctor. Ninety percent or more of all cases are due to having been exposed to asbestos, very often in a work environment.
The asbestos cancer called pleural mesothelioma is a deadly disease. It spreads rapidly after diagnosis. It can be treated in its earlier stages, but so far is resistant to all efforts to cure it.
Asbestos and mesothelioma link
It wasn't until the 1960s that asbestos and mesothelioma were positively linked. In the meantime, thousands of workers in construction, shipbuilding, and in manufacturing environments were unknowingly exposed for varying periods of time without appropriate protection. The same was true for those who worked with insulation and building materials such as asbestos cement. Asbestos dust on the clothes is one of the mesothelioma causes for the family members of such workers.
In some cases asbestos fibers may be swallowed and penetrate into the membrane around abdomen (the peritoneum). There they cause inflammation which eventually leads to a peritoneal effusion (fluid in the abdomen), a symptom of peritoneal mesothelioma.