Asbestos Cancer Risk Factors are straightforward exposure to asbestos in some form or the other during the lifespan of the patient. While 90 percent of all mesothelioma cases are caused by asbestos exposure, the remaining 10 percent usually are suspected to have had some form of exposure to asbestos. Consequently, the leading risk factor for developing mesothelioma, or any other form of asbestos cancer, is asbestos. Asbestos is a mineral characterized by long, fibrous crystals that are often incorporated into different materials. It can even be woven into fabrics. These crystals are highly resistant to wear and have many uses.
Asbestos as Insulation
Many homes, schools, and office buildings have asbestos in them in some shape or form. Due to the mineral’s durability and resistance to heat, electricity and chemical wear, it was seen as an ideal building material and insulator for a long time. It was commonly used as insulation for pipes, wires, hot water heaters and many other high-temperature and high-voltage appliances. It was also used in roofs and ceilings to insulate buildings.
As long as asbestos remains undisturbed, it poses virtually no health risks. However, once the insulation is broken or cracked, tiny asbestos fibers can be released as dust into the air, where they can be breathed in or swallowed. Once inside the airway, asbestos fibers can lodge themselves into of the lungs and will eventually cause cancerous tumors.
Asbestos Use in the Workplace
Since the U.S. Environmental Agency (EPA) banned most uses of asbestos, it can no longer be used in any new construction materials. However, several generations of construction workers have already been exposed to the deadly mineral. The highest risk factors for asbestos exposure involve people who installed asbestos insulation throughout the 1970s and early 1980s. Asbestos mine workers are also at an extremely high risk of developing asbestos cancer. Construction workers still have a relatively high risk of asbestos exposure if they work in or around old buildings that contain asbestos insulation. If the proper precautions aren’t taken, this asbestos could be released into the air during a demolition or renovation.
Because it often takes decades for the cancer to form, asbestos cancers tend to be advanced when diagnosed and the prognoses are not always positive. If you’ve had any of the symptoms of mesothelioma or other asbestos cancers and work or worked in an occupation that has a high risk of asbestos exposure, see a doctor as soon as possible. As with all cancers, early detection is the key to a good prognosis.