Each year in Illinois, a number of people are diagnosed with mesothelioma. This rare type of cancer is caused by asbestos exposure, and most people who contract it are exposed to high levels of asbestos at their jobs. Understanding the risk factors for mesothelioma might help people prevent this disease.

What is mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that occurs in the lining surrounding the lungs, abdomen or heart. This disease is caused by exposure to asbestos. The most common type of mesothelioma is pleural mesothelioma, which impacts the pleural lining around the lungs. People who develop pleural mesothelioma normally have been exposed to high levels of asbestos fibers in their jobs that they have inhaled. Peritoneal mesothelioma, which affects the abdominal lining, happens when people cough up and swallow asbestos fibers that they have inhaled. There is generally a long latency period between when people are exposed to asbestos and when they develop the disease.

What are the risk factors for mesothelioma?

While asbestos exposure is the primary risk factor for mesothelioma, there are several other factors that can increase the risk of developing the disease. Some of these risk factors include the following:

• Exposure to zeolites
• Age
• Gender
• Radiation
• Genetic changes
• SV40 virus exposure

Zeolites are minerals that are closely related to asbestos. In areas where zeolites are more prevalent, higher rates of mesothelioma have been found. People are also much likelier to develop mesothelioma as they age, and men are likelier to contract it than women. Some people who have received radiation treatment for other types of cancer subsequently develop mesothelioma, leading some researchers to surmise that radiation in combination with asbestos exposure might increase the risk. Genetic changes in some people have also been linked to mesothelioma when people carry a rare mutation called BAP 1. Finally, exposure to the SV40 virus may also increase the risk of mesothelioma.

People who develop mesothelioma may be entitled to recover compensation for their losses through an asbestos trust fund or a lawsuit. An experienced mesothelioma lawyer might help clients to identify the source of exposure and work to hold the responsible parties accountable for their negligent actions.