NCCN Guidelines for Patients
Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma, Version 1.2014
Am I at risk?
10 Risk factors for mesothelioma
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Risk factors for mesothelioma
A risk factor is something that increases the chance of
getting a disease. Exposure to asbestos is the main
risk factor for mesothelioma.
Asbestos is a group of minerals made of tiny fibers.
It is strong, flexible, and resistant to heat and fire.
Because of these traits, asbestos has been used in
housing and commercial products, such as roofing
and brake pads.
Asbestos is the only
Asbestos can break into tiny pieces that may be
breathed in or swallowed. The asbestos pieces can
then get trapped in the lungs and remain there for
years. How asbestos gets into the pleura (the tissue
lining around the lungs) and causes normal cells
to become cancer cells isn’t fully known. It often
takes 20 to 40 years after having had contact with
asbestos for mesothelioma to develop. There are no
studies that clearly show the length of time exposed
to asbestos that is needed to increase the risk for
Asbestos is divided into two main groups: serpentine
and amphibole asbestos. Serpentine is made of
long, curly fibers whereas amphibole is made of
straight, needle-like fibers. There are different types
of asbestos within each main group, but the most
commonly used include chrysotile, crocidolite, and
Of these three, chrysotile is the most widely used
to make products. Chrysotile is a type of serpentine
asbestos. Its long, curly fibers make it less likely
to break into pieces and cause mesothelioma.
Crocidolite and amosite are types of amphibole
asbestos. They are used less frequently because
their straight, needle-like fibers are more brittle and
likely to break, or fragment. However, because they
fragment, they are more likely to be breathed in or
swallowed and cause mesothelioma.