What Is It?

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that affects the thin membranes that line most of the body's organs. In the lungs and chest cavity, this membrane is called the pleura. In the abdomen, it is called peritoneum. The membrane around the heart is called the pericardium. Mesothelioma most often affects the lungs.

Most cases of mesothelioma are caused by exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral. It was once used in a variety of industrial products including

  • Insulation

  • Cement

  • Roof shingles

  • Flooring

  • Brake linings

People who made these products or worked in certain industries, such as ship building, have an increased risk of mesothelioma because they may have inhaled or swallowed dust containing asbestos particles. If they went home with dust on their clothing, family members may have been exposed to asbestos, too.

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