Causes of Mesothelioma

OncoLink Team
The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: May 7, 2013


Is there anything other than asbestos that can cause mesothelioma?


Joe Friedberg, MD, Thoracic Surgeon at Penn Medicine, responds:

Asbestos is far and away the most common. Known asbestos exposure is reported to account for 50-70% of cases of malignant pleural mesothelioma, although it is likely that asbestos play a role in the development of nearly all cases. It typically takes three to four decades after asbestos exposure before the development of mesothelioma. There are other much less common causes; with radiation therapy delivered to the chest years to decades earlier to treat another condition being the second most common. Other less common causes include inhalation of erionite fibers (minerals in gravel roads), collapsotherapy (used in the treatment of tuberculosis), and potentially even viral infection with DNA tumor simian virus SV40. Unlike with lung cancer, smoking is not an independent risk factor for developing mesothelioma. You can learn more about the causes of mesothelioma on the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation website.

This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series. View the entire Focus on Mesothelioma transcript.

From the National Cancer Institute