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Science & Technology

Mesothelioma

  • 28 Jan 2020
  • 3 min read

Why in News

There have been allegations against Johnson & Johnson that its Baby Powder (talcum powder) contains asbestos which can cause Mesothelioma, a type of rare cancer.

  • Talc or talcum is a naturally occurring clay mineral mined from the earth which is used in baby powder because of its ability to absorb moisture.
  • Mines that collect talc also contain asbestos that has been linked to health risks like mesothelioma and asbestosis.

Key Points

  • Malignant mesothelioma is an aggressive and deadly form of cancer that occurs in the thin layer of tissue that covers the majority of internal organs (mesothelium).
  • It is divided into different types based on what part of the mesothelium is affected.
    • Pleural mesothelioma- affects the tissue that surrounds the lungs (pleura).
    • Peritoneal mesothelioma- affects the tissue in the abdomen.
    • Pericardial mesothelioma- affects the tissue around the heart.
    • Mesothelioma of tunica vaginalis- affects the tissue surrounding the testicles.
  • Symptoms
    • Chest pain
    • Painful coughing
    • Unusual lumps of tissue under the skin on chest
    • Unexplained weight loss
    • Abdominal pain
    • Abdominal swelling
    • Breathing difficulty
  • Signs and symptoms of other types of mesothelioma are unclear since these forms of the disease are very rare.
  • Prevention
    • Reducing exposure to asbestos may lower the risk of mesothelioma.
      • Asbestos exposure is the primary risk factor for this disease.

Asbestos

  • It is a mineral that is found naturally in the environment. Asbestos fibres are strong and resistant to heat, making them useful in a wide variety of applications, such as in insulation, brakes, shingles, flooring and many other products.
  • During the mining process or removal of asbestos insulation, asbestos dust is created which settles in the lungs or in the stomach if inhaled or swallowed. They can cause irritation that may lead to mesothelioma and asbestosis.
    • It can take 20 to 60 years or more for mesothelioma to develop after asbestos exposure.
    • However, the exact process of this is still not understood.
    • Asbestosis is a chronic, inflammatory lung disease, but it’s benign. Its sole cause is asbestos exposure.
  • Most people with asbestos exposure never develop mesothelioma indicating that other factors like inheriting a predisposition to cancer may be involved in determining whether someone gets mesothelioma.
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