It’s not exactly known how exposure to asbestos causes mesothelioma. There are different theories to explain the mechanism by which asbestos fibers change healthy mesothelial cells into malignant cells. One theory suggests that the cells react directly to the presence of asbestos on the mesothelial cells. Another theory suggests that the asbestos fibers cause changes in the mesothelium indirectly. Some, in the medical profession believe that the asbestos fibers react with the cells and a toxin is released into the cells which cause the cells to change into cancer cells.
Asbestos fibers are soft and pliable. They have little hook-like ends that embed into the mesothelium. Once asbestos fibers are inhaled, the fibers are in your respiratory tract to stay. When the fibers get stuck in the cells, they create an inflammatory process which causes chemicals known as cytokines. These chemicals cause changes within the mesothelial cells. Healthy cells begin to turn into cancer cells. Just how this process occurs isn’t completely understood. It is believed that these cytokines interfere with the balance between the genes that promote growth and the genes that suppress growth of the cells. It is believed that the rate of cell growth and cell division gets out of harmony.
Genetic influence on mesothelioma
It is believed that it only takes one cell to change into a cancer cell. The genetic material necessary to change a normal mesothelial cell into a cancer cell is likely to occur in just a single cell. Once the cancer cell starts to divide, it replicates more cancer cells. With each cell’s division the genetic information is replicated so that the cells grow out of control. People who suffer from mesothelioma often have abnormalities in the chromosomes. As the cells divide the abnormal sequences of the chromosomes continue to be replicated.
It is also believed that a specific virus, the simian virus 40 (SV40 virus) reacts with the asbestos fibers to cause changes within the cells. This virus may have been contracted through a vaccination that was contaminated with the virus. During the 1950s and 1960s some vaccinations were contaminated with the virus. It is believed that mesothelioma could have been indirectly caused by changes in the DNA through a reaction between the asbestos and the virus.
Exposure to asbestos not only puts you at risk for mesothelioma of the respiratory tract it can also enter into the gastrointestinal tract. Asbestos can cause other diseases such as lung cancer, asbestosis, emphysema, and gastric cancer. Because asbestos is highly toxic, anyone living or working in an environment where there is asbestos, the mineral should either be covered or encapsulated or removed. It could be much more expensive and dangerous to remove asbestos from a building. Only licensed personnel who are trained in the field should take measures to remove asbestos from a home or building.
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