asbestos cancerAsbestos Cancer (mesothelioma) is a rare form of cancer in which malignant cells are found in the mesothelium, a protective sac that covers most of the body’s internal organs. In addition to asbestos cancer, exposure to asbestos increases the risk of lung cancer, asbestosis (a noncancerous, chronic lung ailment), and other cancers, such as those of the larynx and kidney.

Although reported incidence rates have increased in the past 20 years, this is still a relatively rare cancer. About 2,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in the United States each year. It occurs more often in men than in women and risk increases with age, but this disease can appear in either men or women at any age.

Working with asbestos is the major risk factor for mesothelioma. A history of asbestos exposure at work is reported in about 70 percent to 80 percent of all cases. However, mesothelioma has been reported in some individuals without any known exposure to asbestos.

Smoking does not appear to increase the risk of mesothelioma. However, the combination of smoking and asbestos exposure significantly increases a person’s risk of developing cancer of the air passageways in the lung.

Treatment for asbestos cancer depends on the location of the malignancy, the stage of the disease, and the patient’s age and general health. Standard treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Sometimes, these treatments are combined.

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