Mesothelioma Risk Factors

The presence of mesothelioma risk factors doesn’t necessarily mean that an individual will develop the condition, but people who have them should be aware of their health and notify a physician if they notice any unusual changes. 

Asbestos exposure is the primary risk factor for mesothelioma.

Asbestos exposure is the primary risk factor for mesothelioma. There are several forms of exposure that people may experience: 

  • Occupational asbestos exposure – Exposure to raw asbestos fibers or asbestos-containing materials at a worksite (especially common in industrial worksites, such as power plants, oil refineries, steel miles and shipyards) 
  • Environmental asbestos exposure – Exposure to naturally occurring asbestos deposits in the ground (especially common in hilly, mountainous areas such as Libby, Montana, and California’s El Dorado County)
  • Secondhand asbestos exposure – Exposure to asbestos on the hair, clothing or skin of a person who was exposed to asbestos elsewhere 

Aside from asbestos exposure, several other risk factors are also associated with mesothelioma. Exposure to radiation (especially radiation that was directed at the chest), SV40 virus and non-asbestos mineral fibers (such as erionite and taconite) can also increase a person’s risk of developing the disease.  

Who is most at risk for mesothelioma?

Men, especially those over the age of 65, are considered to be most at risk for mesothelioma. However, that’s not because age and gender are direct mesothelioma risk factors, but rather because men are more likely to have worked in asbestos-contaminated worksites than women, and most exposures occurred prior to regulatory action in the 1980s. The cancer has a long latency period, so people who came into contact with one of the risk factors several decades ago may just now be experiencing health problems. 

At Moffitt Cancer Center, we can help you assess your risk of developing mesothelioma and provide additional information about mesothelioma risk factors. No referral is necessary to meet with one of our oncologists. Call 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form to set up an appointment.