Malignant mesothelioma is type of cancer that affects the lining around the lungs. As you may have noticed from the frequent commercials on day-time television, asbestos and mesothelioma is often discussed in unison. The reason for this is that mesothelioma cancer almost always occurs from exposure to asbestos.

Asbestos is an industrial material that has many beneficial properties, with flame-resistance being the most popular. It was used extensively in many products for most of the twentieth century until they were mostly banned by 1978 in the US. This ban came about because of health issues that developed among people who worked closely with asbestos, and there was concern that asbestos had become so common that the general public would start to see health consequences in addition to particular occupations.

Various health issues were reported by asbestos workers, including asbestosis (scarring of the lungs) and lung cancer. The most deadly though was malignant mesothelioma, which is a cancer that develops in the lining that surrounds the lungs instead of the lungs themselves. As it turns out, for most of the century, there was quite a bit of data available showing how extensively asbestos workers suffered health problems in comparison to the rest of the population, but no real action was taken until later on.

Asbestos is mineral fiber that can form in such small, microscopic fibrils that they are easily inhaled into the lungs. It is not totally clear why asbestos is so potentially harmful to the lungs, but many believe the size, shape, and chemical composition all combine to make it more unhealthy than other lung pollutants. The asbestos fibers can actually penetrate through lung into the protective sac that surround the lungs, and the more this happens the more chance that malignant mesothelioma can occur.

Malignant mesothelioma typically can take twenty or more years to develop, and it is still not very clear all the factors that are involved in predicating whether someone will become ill with this disease. The workers who were exposed to high amounts of asbestos for years have suffered it the most as would seem logical, but people that live in regions such as Libby, Montana where the outside air is contaminated with low doses of asbestos also have higher mortality rates than the rest of the population. It also not clear how much an asbestos exposure an office worker has to experience before it becomes a real problem. Asbestos laws and regulations have been put forth to protect the general public from exposure during remodeling activities, but these are often ignored.

Asbestos and malignant mesothelioma are inseparably intertwined with almost all cases of the disease related to asbestos exposure. People that have worked extensively with asbestos in the past before it became outlawed have much higher percentage of cases of malignant mesothelioma, and people that have been exposed to constant low-level asbestos levels also develop malignant mesothelioma in higher numbers.

As was mentioned earlier, the health effects of asbestos were known for some time before it was banned, and this has become a basis for quite a few mesothelioma and asbestos lawsuits for workers who were knowingly exposed to asbestos and have the potential to starting developing mesothelioma disease. You may have seen various lawyer commercials on daytime television.