Can Mesothelioma be Passed On?

About 1% of people with mesothelioma have inherited the disease, which means that the risk of developing it was transmitted from parent to child within the family. It is usually due to a mutation or change in a gene called BAP1.Spending time with a patient with mesothelioma will not increase the risk of a person developing cancer, and even exposure to the blood or body fluids of a patient with mesothelioma cannot transmit cancer. Secondary exposure can cause asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis. Although many cancers, such as breast cancer or colon cancer, are known to have a generational genetic link, mesothelioma does not.

The cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos fibers, but there is some new research suggesting that certain genetic mutations may make people more susceptible to a variety of cancers, including mesothelioma, if they were exposed to asbestos. Unfortunately, since mesothelioma in children and young people is so rare, there is not as much research on the subject as on other diseases. In the rare case that children or young adults suffer from illness due to exposure to asbestos, their exposure is usually secondhand. It usually takes 10 to 40 years for mesothelioma to develop, which is why rare cancer rates are higher among older people.

Instead of possible environmental exposure to asbestos, it is likely that children and young adults who have mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases have received it through fibers than someone who works in a field where they often come into contact with asbestos. Mesothelioma is not contagious and cannot be transmitted from one person to another. It is scientifically proven to be the direct result of personal exposure to asbestos fibers and is not hereditary or contagious. So you don't have to worry about passing it on to others if you have mesothelioma or that patients with mesothelioma will pass it on to you as a family member.

However, people who are not directly exposed may be at risk if they live (or lived) with someone who brought home asbestos fibers in their clothing or personal effects (more on secondary exposure below). In Michigan, Serling & Abramson has represented many spouses or children of merchants who were exposed to asbestos and developed mesothelioma through washing the work clothes of family members. In general, only a small fraction of people exposed to asbestos or other causative agents of mesothelioma actually develop the disorder. Genetics may explain, in part, why some people develop mesothelioma and others don't.

Inherited mutations of certain genes, such as the tumor suppressor gene BAP1, cause a genetic predisposition to developing the disease.A person who is genetically predisposed to a disorder carries a mutated gene (or genes) that increases their susceptibility to the disease, but it may not occur unless there is a loss of the second (normal) copy of the gene. The latter may be activated under certain circumstances, for example due to a particular environmental factor, such as those described above. People without a genetic predisposition to a disease can still develop the disease, but the risk is much lower.New insights into understanding the mechanisms, pathogenesis and treatment of malignant mesotheliomas have been made in recent years. Although the risk of mesothelioma is higher in patients who have been treated with radiation, this cancer is still rare in these patients.

Most medical experts in Michigan and across the country agree that smoking has no scientifically established connection to the development of mesothelioma.Some studies have raised the possibility that infection with simian virus 40 (SV40) may increase the risk of developing mesothelioma. Somatic (acquired) mutations of BAP1, NF2 and CDKN2A (encoding both p16INK4a and p14ARF) frequently occur in both sporadic (non-inherited) and inherited forms of mesothelioma.Cases of mesothelioma grew in the 20th century when asbestos became the preferred insulator for its fire and heat resistant properties from the early 20th century to the 1970s. But most experts agree that at this point we still don't know if SV40 is responsible for some mesotheliomas.Family members of asbestos workers should inform a doctor about their exposure and any symptoms of mesothelioma as soon as they arise. The incidence of mesothelioma that develops without known exposure to asbestos is approximately 1 in 1 million in the general population.In particular, a mouse model carrying a Bap1 germline mutation was reported to be much more susceptible to the development of asbestos-induced mesotheliomas than similarly exposed siblings who did not carry the mutation.

In the United States alone there are an estimated 20 million people who are presumed to be at risk of developing mesothelioma due to exposure to asbestos.Jennifer Lucarelli has advocated for mesothelioma patients and their families for 20 years and has helped more than 1000 victims. Much of the evidence for S40 in mesothelioma was obtained using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technique; more recent tests have demonstrated a high risk of false positive PCR results due to presence of SV40 sequences in common laboratory plasmids.

Marissa Trafford
Marissa Trafford

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