Risk factor Mesothelioma (Asbestos) Study in 2020

cancer guide

The most important risk factor for mesothelioma is asbestos. That is why mesothelioma is also called asbestos cancer. Mesothelioma usually only occurs around 20 to 60 years after asbestos exposure. Most people with mesothelioma have had long and intensive contact with asbestos. Asbestos is a material that used to be widely used in construction. It consists of very small fibers that are not visible to the naked eye. When inhaled, the asbestos fibers can end up in the lungs. The fibers from the lungs end up in the pleura. Mesothelioma can arise from this. Not everyone who has worked with asbestos gets mesothelioma. It is not possible to predict who will get the disease. People who have been in contact with asbestos for a long time also have a higher risk of lung cancer.

cancer guide

Types of asbestos

There are different types of asbestos, each with its own color. All types of asbestos can cause mesothelioma. Blue and brown asbestos are the most harmful. Almost all asbestos used in the Netherlands consists of a mixture of several types.

Asbestos and work

Mesothelioma is seen as an occupational disease. Many men have contracted mesothelioma through exposure to asbestos through their work. For example, they have worked in construction, heavy industry or at a shipyard. Or have been electrical, heating or car mechanic. Roommates of these men may also have been exposed to asbestos. The asbestos fibers can be carried home via clothing. Some people with mesothelioma cannot be retrieved if and where they have been in contact with asbestos.

Asbestos and allowance

All people who receive mesothelioma in the Netherlands are entitled to financial compensation. Even if it is not known where they have been in contact with asbestos. Former employees can also apply for compensation. More information about these schemes can be found on the website of the Asbestos Victims Institute .

Other risk factors for mesothelioma


The cause of mesothelioma can sometimes be hereditary. People with a defect in the BAP1 gene have a higher risk of mesothelioma. This deviation can be passed on from parent to child. The BAP1 abnormality is very rare: only a few families worldwide are familiar with this mutation. Mesothelioma is more common in these families.

No other risk factors

Apart from asbestos and the rare BAP1 abnormality, no other causes of mesothelioma are known.


No relationship was found between smoking and mesothelioma. Smoking is a risk factor for lung cancer.

Not contagious

Cancer is not contagious, not even mesothelioma. The mucus that someone with mesothelioma coughs up does not pose any risk to other people.

Mesothelioma survival rates

The figures on this page apply to a group of patients. They provide a general picture, but no information about your situation. Your outlook may be better or worse than the outlook for an entire group. Discuss your prospects with your doctor.

If there are few new patients per year, it is possible that not all treatments can be performed in your own hospital. Discuss with your doctor whether treatment in your own hospital is possible or whether a referral to a specialized treatment center is necessary.

The survival of patients with mesothelioma has hardly improved in recent years.

Cancer is a disease that mainly affects older people. This is because in older people, the ability to repair cell division errors decreases. Due to the changed cell division, cancer can eventually arise. 
Older people often also have another disease. Sometimes even several diseases. Having 2 or more chronic diseases at the same time is called comorbidity .

Of the total number of people with cancer who are 65 or older, approximately 60% have comorbidity. Usually it is about:

heart and vascular disease

hypertension: increased blood pressure

diabetes: another word for this is diabetes

respiratory disorders (e.g. COPD)

Comorbidity and treatment

Comorbidity can influence the choice of cancer treatment. Treatment according to national guidelines is therefore not always possible. That is why the doctor may recommend appropriate treatment. Therefore always tell which other complaints you have. It is better to tell too much than too little. 

Comorbidity not only influences the choice of treatment. It causes a multitude of complaints and / or symptoms. For example fatigue, shortness of breath and inflammation. That is why it is necessary that the care is tailored to you personally. It is important that the other diseases are treated as well as possible. After all, a good condition is important to be able to tolerate cancer treatment. 

If you have more than 1 disease, then you often have to deal with several doctors. It is important that you always have a fixed point of contact. Furthermore, the doctors must communicate well with each other about your medical file. You can ask yourself if they do that.

Use of medication

Do you use more than 3 different medicines? Then, when you visit your doctor, bring all the medicines that you use. It is important that the medicines are precisely matched. It is also important that you take the medication according to the prescription. Even when you may not have any complaints yet.

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