I saw an Atlantic article come through the ol'Facebook newsfeed and it reminded me that I promised someone I'd tell you all about Mesothelioma. What?
First, the article, which is about avoiding gynecological cancers that are linked to HPV. There's even a link between other cancers and HPV. If you can get the HPV vaccine, do it. Why? Because this little virus is very good at mutating cells in ways that eventually lead to cancer. Seriously. There are a few dangerous things about HPV. First of all everyone seems to have some strain of it at some point in their life and there's no cure. Second, it shows no symptoms in men most of the time so dudes won't even know they have it and are passing it on to women. And finally: cell mutation, dysplasia, cancer. Just get vaccinated and vaccinate your kids. Read the articles linked above for more details.
And then there's Mesothelioma. This is another avoidable cancer, which is why the HPV vaccine article reminded me of it. Mesothelioma is a cancer of the mesothelium, or thin lining of internal organs of the abdomen. Mesothelioma is the cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos. I know that plenty of you are into DIY home improvement projects. Before you embark on those projects, learn about what asbestos is used in and don't breathe home improvement dust. No amount of exposure is okay.
You probably know that asbestos is bad for you and you think of it in relation to asbestos insulation. However, asbestos has been used in products from toasters to hair dryers to glue to home siding to paint. It's a naturally occurring rock that can be spun into fibrous insulation or used to make lightweight siding or planter boxes.
You also probably think that asbestos is no longer an issue in these modern times when we know about how bad it is. Sadly, so many houses were built before the health risks of asbestos were discovered that we're still seeing a lot of people being exposed. And even though asbestos is so obviously bad, it is not banned in the US and is still used in many applications.
Asbestos siding on homes may not be an issue if it's left alone. Asbestos used in glues that keep tiles on walls may not cause you any harm while the tiles stay glued to the wall. It turns out that all of us are exposed to asbestos at some point during our lives. The problems come if you breath in asbestos dust. The dust particles get lodged in the lungs and can cause inflammation, infection, and cell mutations that lead to cancer.
If you are remodeling a house, consider an asbestos inspection before you do any drilling, smashing, or DIY work. When homes are remodeled, asbestos gets disturbed and some dust is swirled up into the air. If you do any remodeling or work on your house at all, interior or exterior, use caution and consider an asbestos inspection beforehand.
The most likely Mesothelioma patients are people who have worked in construction, fire rescue, or navy workers; these are the people that have come into contact with asbestos on a regular basis for many years. Emergency workers and clean-up crews who were exposed to the rubble of the World Trade Center are at especially high risk. Before the risks were understood, construction workers used to come home covered in asbestos dust, and family members often contracted Mesothelioma, lung cancer, or suffered from other respiratory problems. These days, safety requirements have been increased to help reduce exposure. But most people don't realize how prevalent asbestos is.
Mesothelioma doesn't necessarily present until 10 to 40 years after exposure. And there is no cure.
The Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance contacted me and asked if I would write a blog post about this completely preventable cancer. It's slightly off-topic, but I said I'd be happy to spread the word. Just be careful, guys, and know the risks so you can avoid exposure to asbestos.