Mesothelioma is rare and aggressive asbestos-caused cancer in which there is no cure. The cancer affects the lining that surrounds various organs and cavities in the body; most tumors are commonly found in the lining of lungs and the chest (the pleura), making up two thirds of all diagnosed cases. Peritoneal mesothelioma, sometimes referred to as abdominal mesothelioma, is cancer that affects the lining of the stomach. Peritoneal mesothelioma is very rare – only between 100 and 500 cases are diagnosed in the United States each year.
There is no definitive answer as to how asbestos causes peritoneal mesothelioma, but it is believed that when asbestos is inhaled the fibers bypass the lungs and become transported through the lymph node system to the peritoneal cavity. Asbestos fibers can also be ingested, perhaps from water that flowed through an asbestos-lined pipe that was eroding. The fibers would then be able to work themselves into the digestive tract and into the peritoneal cavity.
Asbestos is silicate mineral that refers to any product that is flexible, possesses a high tensile strength, is heat resistant, resistant to chemical degradation, and can be woven into fabrics. There are six different types of asbestos and while there is no safe level of asbestos exposure, some types of asbestos are thought to be more dangerous than others. When it comes to peritoneal mesothelioma, it is largely believed that chrysotile asbestos is not capable of causing this cancer, especially when the individual exposed did not directly work with the substance. Instead, amosite asbestos is considered to be the cause, because of its characteristics and how often it was used.
The long straight fibers and brown color of “brown” asbestos make amosite easy to identify. Amosite was mostly mined in South Africa and largely used as insulation in factories and buildings, and was an acoustical and anti-condensation material. Because if its use in many insulation products, the EPA classified amosite as the second most used type of asbestos in the United States. The first most used type is chrysotile. Chrysotile asbestos is classified as serpentine asbestos because of its curly fibers. Since the fibers are curly, some believe that the fibers are not as easily inhaled and not as sharp, making this type of asbestos “safer.” We know now that is not the case and because its use is the most wide-spread, more people suffer from asbestos related diseases from contact with chrysotile than any other form of asbestos.
A study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine investigated 62 patients suffering from peritoneal mesothelioma, some paraoccupational exposures; in an effort to investigate the role chrysotile has in the diagnoses when compared to amosite. Medical records and product identification were used among the 51 men and 11 women who participated in this study. Results showed that chrysotile was found in 26 percent of all the cases. Fifty percent of paraoccupational exposure victims were to chrysotile asbestos. This means that whether from occupational or paraoccupational, diffuse peritoneal mesothelioma diagnoses can be attributed to chrysotile and amosite asbestos alike.
Kraden RL, “Diffuse peritoneal mesothelioma: A case series of 62 patients including paraoccupational exposures to chrysotile asbestos,” American Journal of Industrial Medicine, (September 2017). [Link]
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