The Role of Asbestos

  • In the late 19th century, asbestos fibers became more popular among manufacturers and builders because their chemical, electrical and heat resistant properties make them very useful as building and insulation material. However, asbestos fiber inhalation can lead to neoplastic diseases such as malignant mesothelioma. In the mid 1980s, most uses of asbestos have been banned or severely restricted in many countries.

    Approximately 80% of mesothelioma cases can be directly attributed to asbestos exposure. Most people who develop mesothelioma have worked in jobs where they inhaled or ingested asbestos fibers, or were exposed to airborne asbestos dust and fibers in other ways. Pleural mesothelioma is characterized by a long latency, typically 20-40 years, from the time of initial asbestos exposure to diagnosis, suggesting that multiple somatic genetic events are required for tumorigenic conversion of a mesothelial cell. The mechanism through which asbestos causes pleural mesothelioma is not well understood yet. However, some studies have shown the direct accumulation of asbestos fibers in the lung as well as effects such as genotoxicity and pro-inflammatory effects following exposure of mesothelial cells to asbestos and other fibres in vitro.