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About Mesothelioma

In mesothelioma, cancer cells form in the lining of the lungs and other organs, usually long after heavy exposure to the fibrous mineral asbestos. After a person is exposed to asbestos, it usually takes at least 20 years and sometimes as long as 40 or 50 years for malignant mesothelioma to form.

When breathed in, the tiny asbestos fibers can lodge in lungs and remain there for a long time, causing tissue inflammation and scarring, which can affect breathing and lead to serious health problems. While low levels of asbestos fibers are present in the earth’s air, water and soil, most people do not become ill from this type of light exposure. Asbestos becomes a health risk after significant exposure, and today the mineral is highly regulated because of the proven link between long-term exposure over a period of many years or even decades and development of cancer and other lung diseases. Numerous studies have determined that tobacco smoking and asbestos exposure is particularly hazardous. However, there is also evidence that quitting smoking reduces the risk of lung cancer among asbestos-exposed workers.

Mesothelioma is most often located in the thin layer of tissue called the pleura that covers the lung and chest wall; it can also form in the peritoneum, the thin layer of tissue that lines the abdomen and covers most of the abdominal organs.