Mesothelioma cancer, also known as malignant mesothelioma, is a cancer that starts as a tumor in the mesothelium, which is a protective tissue lining that covers certain areas in the body, according to the American Cancer Society. There is a significant link between mesothelioma cancer and asbestos exposure.
Mesotheliomas commonly occur in the chest or abdomen area, but in rare cases they may occur around the heart or testicles, states the American Cancer Society. Inhalation of asbestos fibers can travel through the body and damage the mesothelium, gradually resulting in mesothelioma cancer. Individuals with long-term and heavy exposure to asbestos have a higher risk of developing the cancer. Mesothelioma can take a few decades to develop after initial exposure to asbestos.
Zeolite, a mineral that is similar to asbestos, may also cause mesothelioma cancer, says the American Cancer Society. Other potential risk factors include high levels of radiation exposure and thorium dioxide injections. There is also speculation that an infection by the virus known as SV40 may increase the risk of mesothelioma, but as of 2015, researchers are still seeking conclusive evidence.
Mesothelioma is more common in older people. It is also more prevalent in men, likely because there are historically more men in jobs with a higher chance of asbestos exposure.