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Am I At Risk for Malignant Mesothelioma?

There is no way to know for sure if you're going to get malignant mesothelioma. Certain factors can make you more likely to get this type of cancer than another person. These are called risk factors. Just because you have one or more risk factors does not mean you will get malignant mesothelioma. In fact, you can have all of the risk factors and still not get the cancer. On the other hand, you may have no known risk factors and get malignant mesothelioma. Tell your doctor if you agree with any of the bolded statements because they increase your risk.

I have worked with asbestos.

The main risk factor for this cancer is contact with asbestos. In the past, asbestos was used in insulation. It was also used to make tiles, door gaskets, roofing, and patching compounds. If asbestos fibers are breathed in, they travel to the lining of the lungs and harm the cells there. You may have worked with asbestos if you have worked as a miner, factory worker, construction worker, insulation manufacturer or installer, ship construction worker, railroad or automotive worker, or in any other asbestos-related field. If you have questions, contact one of these resources.

  • Your local union

  • National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health at 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) or

  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration at 800-321-OSHA (800-321-6742) or  

I have a family member who has worked with asbestos.

There is some research that says that family members of workers who have been heavily exposed to asbestos may be at risk for mesothelioma. This is because asbestos fibers from the family member's clothes, skin, and hair may be brought into the household.

I live near naturally occurring asbestos.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral. It exists in dust and rocks in certain parts of the world, including parts of Turkey and the United States. Having contact with asbestos in the natural environment can put you at risk.

I have been treated with radiation in the past.

If you've had radiation for cancer of your lymph glands in your chest (lymphoma), you may be at an increased risk of developing mesothelioma in your chest. Usually it is a long time between the treatment for lymphoma and the development of mesothelioma.

I have received Thorotrast in the past.

There is some research that says that exposure to thorium dioxide (Thorotrast), a material used in X-rays in the 1930s and 40s, may be linked to some forms of cancer, including mesothelioma. Thorotrast has not been used for many years.

I am 65 or older.

Two out of three people with mesothelioma are 65 or older. It rarely occurs in people 45 and younger.

I am a man.

More men than women contract mesothelioma. This may be related to heavy asbestos exposure in jobs held predominantly by men, such as factory work, mining, insulation manufacturing, and insulation installation. 


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