If a family member, friend, or co-worker was recently diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, or if you know that you have certain genetic predispositions to developing certain types of cancers, you might be thinking right about prevention and what you can do to avoid malignant mesothelioma. The most important thing you can do to prevent mesothelioma is to avoid any type of exposure to asbestos. While you may not be able to take any preventive measures once you have been exposed to asbestos, it is critical to avoid asbestos exposure in any amount and for any period of time. Since mesothelioma can also have other causal factors, such as genetics, age, and exposure to radiation therapy, for example, you may be wondering if there are other ways of preventing mesothelioma aside from avoiding any type of asbestos exposure. Generally speaking, preventing malignant mesothelioma when it is caused by other factors is significantly more difficult, but it may be possible to make healthy lifestyle choices to reduce your overall risk of cancer.
Avoid Any Kind of Exposure to Asbestos
The most significant and important way of preventing mesothelioma is by avoiding any kind of exposure to asbestos. About eight out of every ten cases of malignant mesothelioma that are diagnosed are linked to asbestos exposure at some point in the patient’s life. It is important to know that being exposed to asbestos does not immediately result in the development of malignant mesothelioma or other types of cancer. For most people, it takes anywhere from ten to thirty years for asbestos exposure to cause malignant mesothelioma. Accordingly, you should not assume that if you were exposed to asbestos more recently that you do not need to worry about being diagnosed with this type of cancer in the future. Prevention of mesothelioma involves avoiding asbestos exposure at any age and monitoring for signs of mesothelioma even decades later.
Avoiding asbestos is essential to preventing mesothelioma. Yet as the National Cancer Institute explains, it may not be possible to avoid all exposure to asbestos since it occurs or is present in so many different environments and locations. Indeed, a person might not even realize that they have been exposed to asbestos, and most people are exposed to some level of asbestos at least once in their lifetimes. Our air, water, and soil can contain very low levels of asbestos, so minimal exposure can occur as a result, but most people who are only exposed to asbestos in these capacities will not develop malignant mesothelioma caused by asbestos exposure. The majority of people who develop malignant mesothelioma because they were exposed to asbestos inhaled or swallowed asbestos fibers on the job or through secondhand exposure due to a family member bringing the fibers home on clothing, for example.
Where are you most likely to be exposed to asbestos that may lead to malignant mesothelioma in the future, and how can you prevent that type of exposure? You should pay attention to the following information.
Avoid Exposure to Asbestos in the Workplace to Prevent Mesothelioma
Avoiding exposure to asbestos in the workplace is among the most important preventive methods for preventing a diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma. Employers must abide by regulations that are designed to keep workers safe, and that is intended to prevent asbestos exposure. Indeed, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) creates regulations for employers concerning workplace safety and exposure to hazardous materials and known carcinogens like asbestos. While some occupations or industries do involve working with or around asbestos, employers are required to provide safety and protective equipment to employees, and to provide training to employees about asbestos risks and what steps they should take in the workplace in order to avoid inhaling or swallowing asbestos fibers.
To avoid being dangerously exposed to asbestos at work, employees should understand the types of jobs or industries in which asbestos exposure is most likely. The Mayo Clinic cites the following jobs or industries as those in which exposure to asbestos is most likely to be high, and in which workers are most likely to inhale or swallow asbestos fibers in the course of performing job duties:
- Asbestos miners;
- Shipyard workers;
- Demolition workers;
- Brake mechanics;
- Military personnel; and
- Home remodelers.
The National Cancer Institute also cites firefighters, textile workers, drywall removers, and other types of automobile workers as being at higher risk for asbestos exposure in the workplace. In effect, any job that requires work with materials continuing asbestos on a regular basis can lead to exposure, which can then lead to a malignant mesothelioma diagnosis. Thus to prevent If you have any concerns about asbestos exposure at work, you should speak with your employer about those concerns, or you should speak to your union representative if you are unionized. If you have fears about an unsafe workplace or believe your employer is not abiding by safety regulations pertaining to asbestos training or asbestos protective equipment and safety gear, you may be able to file a report with OSHA.
Avoid Secondhand Exposure to Asbestos at Home
In addition to direct asbestos exposure at the workplace, it is also crucial to avoid secondhand exposure at home. Anyone who works in any of the types of jobs listed above may be likely to bring asbestos fibers home on their clothes or on tools or other materials. To be sure, the National Cancer Institute reports that “there is some evidence that family members of workers heavily exposed to asbestos face an increased risk of developing mesothelioma,” and “this risk is thought to result from exposure to asbestos fibers brought into the home on the shoes, clothing, skin, and hair of workers.”
In order to prevent mesothelioma caused by secondhand exposure to asbestos, it is important for workers to shower and change clothes at work before they come home, and to properly store and wash any clothes that may have been exposed to asbestos. Any clothing items that may have asbestos fibers on them should not be washed with any other clothing.
For some people who live in close proximity to asbestos mines, secondhand exposure also may occur, although this is rarer. To avoid this kind of exposure to asbestos, the only preventive method may be to relocate away from the asbestos mine, which may not be practical for most people.
Avoid Home Renovation Projects That Could Result in Asbestos Exposure
It is also critical to avoid exposure to asbestos in your own home in order to prevent mesothelioma. Before companies stopped using asbestos due to known health hazards in the late 1980s, asbestos was used in a wide variety of domestic and commercial materials and products. So it is essential to understand that many different materials in your home—if they were manufactured or installed before the late 1980s—could contain asbestos. Accordingly, you need to be extremely careful if you are planning to do any type of home remodeling or renovation work. You should never try to remove any products containing asbestos on your own. Instead, you should seek advice from a professional who has experience safely removing asbestos and performing asbestos abatement work.
The Mayo Clinic underscores that, in many homes, it is much more dangerous to attempt to remove asbestos-containing products than to simply leave them intact. If you attempt to break up asbestos or asbestos-containing products, you could release the asbestos fibers into the air and could inhale them. Common household products or materials containing asbestos include but are not limited to the following:
- Household appliances, such as stoves, dishwashers, ovens, heaters, and hair dryers;
- Millboard products, including asbestos-containing paper used behind wood-burning stoves and ovens;
- Shingles on your roof;
- Insulation around steam pipes;
- Textured paint in your home, including popcorn ceilings;
- Floor and ceiling tiles; and
- Drywall containing asbestos.
Avoiding Aggravating Factors or Dangerous Lifestyle Choices After Exposure to Asbestos
Certain lifestyle choices can be aggravating when it comes to asbestos exposure. While there is no known direct causal link between smoking and a malignant mesothelioma diagnosis (although smoking can, of course, cause other types of cancer like lung cancer), it is important to know that the combination of smoking and asbestos exposure can be aggravating. Your body could be more likely to experience damage from the asbestos fibers, which ultimately could play a role in the severity of symptoms of your mesothelioma. Accordingly, for many health reasons, it is important to avoid smoking or to quit smoking if you currently smoke.
Although mesothelioma is not caused directly by other lifestyle choices, it is also important to remember that your body’s immune system plays an important role when it comes to cancer and the development of malignancies in the body. As such, cancer prevention always includes making other healthy lifestyle choices on a regular basis and seeing your doctor regularly for check-ups.
If you have any symptoms of mesothelioma, it is important to seek advice from a healthcare provider who can help you. More generally, if you want to learn more about cancer prevention, you should seek advice from your physician about healthy lifestyle choices and avoiding exposure to known cancer risks at home, in the workplace, and elsewhere.