Frequently Asked Questions About Malignant Mesothelioma

Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about malignant mesothelioma.

Q: What are the risk factors for malignant mesothelioma?

A: Certain factors can make a person more likely to get this type of cancer than another person. These are called risk factors. Just because a person has one or more risk factors does not mean he or she will get malignant mesothelioma. In fact, a person can have all of the risk factors and still not get the disease. On the other hand, a person may have no risk factors and get malignant mesothelioma. Here are some things that may put a person at risk for this cancer.

  • Exposure to asbestos. The main risk factor for this cancer is contact with asbestos. People who have worked with asbestos include miners, factory workers, construction workers, insulation manufacturers and installers, ship construction workers, railroad and automotive workers, and those in other asbestos-related fields.

  • Family factors. Having a family member with heavy exposure to asbestos may increase a person's risk.

  • Geographic location. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral. It exists in dust and rocks in certain parts of the world, including parts of Turkey and the U.S. Having contact with asbestos in the natural environment can put people at risk for this cancer.

  • Having X-rays. Thorium dioxide (Thorotrast) is a material that was used in X-rays in the 1930s and 40s. It may be linked to some forms of cancer, including mesothelioma. Thorotrast has not been used for many years.

  • Having treatment in the past with radiation. A small number of people with this cancer, especially those with the cancer in the chest, have had radiation for cancer of the lymph glands in the chest.

  • Age. Most people who get this disease are older than 65.

  • Gender. More men than women get this disease.

Q: What should I know about clinical trials for malignant mesothelioma?

A: Clinical trials are studies of new kinds of cancer treatments. Doctors use clinical trials to learn how well new treatments work and what their side effects are. Sometimes, doctors find new treatments that work better or have fewer side effects than current treatments. People who join these studies get to use the treatments before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves them for the public. People who join trials also help researchers learn more about cancer and help future people with cancer.

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