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National Mesothelioma Awareness Day - September 27


Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer that destroys the protective tissues around its victims’ lungs, abdomen, and heart. The disease is directly linked to the inhalation of asbestos fibers, and is most commonly diagnosed in construction and industry workers who have worked with asbestos products.

In 2010 Congress established National Mesothelioma Awareness Day to educate Americans affected by, or in danger of being affected by, asbestos. Despite improved education, over 1.3 million American workers remain in contact with the toxic mineral in their workplace, resulting in thousands of new mesothelioma diagnoses every year.

Bringing Awareness to Mesothelioma Cancer

Mesothelioma cancer accounts for around 3,000 diagnoses in the United States each year. In comparison, there are around 220,000 lung cancer diagnoses each year in the United States.

Due to its rarity, mesothelioma research is limited. However, researchers continue to focus their efforts on:

  • Developing treatments to extend mesothelioma survival
  • Finding a mesothelioma cure
  • Improving tools to help diagnose mesothelioma early

Mesothelioma Awareness Day draws attention to these efforts. Supporting events across the country raise funds and bring awareness to the disease. It also encourages communities to show support for those battling mesothelioma.


How Did Mesothelioma Awareness Day Start?

In 2004, the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (Meso Foundation) celebrated the first Mesothelioma Awareness Day (MAD). In 2010, the United States Congress commemorated September 26th as National Mesothelioma Awareness Day.


How Does Mesothelioma Awareness Impact You?

Many people don’t understand mesothelioma, its causes and who may be affected. However, mesothelioma has impacted many communities and workers in certain high-risk occupations.

This is largely due to the prevalence of asbestos. Asbestos exposure can cause mesothelioma cancer. If a household member has been exposed to asbestos, they may also bring fibers into the home. This could result in secondary exposure.

For example, a construction worker may bring home asbestos dust on their clothing. This could then expose household members who come in contact with the contaminated clothing.


Is Asbestos Still Used Today?

Asbestos was largely used prior to 1979. However, older asbestos-containing products are still in use today. Asbestos is also not fully banned in the United States. The mineral is still allowed in small quantities in some products.

Despite the demonstrable harm it causes workers, asbestos is still legal in the United States and available in over 3,000 commercially available products.

In the past few years, asbestos has been found in baby powder, children’s toys, cosmetics such as eye shadow, and children’s makeup sets.

Many advocates seek stricter asbestos regulations on consumer goods. Companies may not disclose the possibility of asbestos on their packaging. Their products may also have had insufficient testing to rule out asbestos contamination.

Some health professionals advise consumers to take caution with talc-based products. Talc and asbestos deposits occur naturally together. As a result, talc is often contaminated with asbestos.


What Is the Main Cause of Mesothelioma?

Asbestos is the most common cause of mesothelioma. All types of asbestos are cancerous. Exposure to asbestos accounts for at least 90% of all cases of mesothelioma.

When asbestos fibers are inhaled or ingested, they can become embedded in the lining of the lungs, abdominal cavity, or heart. Once embedded, the fibers cause inflammation and scarring that can eventually lead to mesothelioma tumors. Inhaling the fibers can also cause other asbestos-related diseases, such as asbestosis.

In addition to the inflammation and scarring, the asbestos fibers also cause indirect and direct DNA damage.

Direct Damage:
  • Asbestos interferes with cell division.
  • This interference can cause cellular damage.
  • As a result of the cellular changes, cancerous mutations may occur.

Indirect Damage
  • Asbestos can cause immune cells to release dangerous gases, which increase inflammation and promotes lung fibrosis.
  • Over time, this inflammation can lead to DNA damage and cancer.

The location of the embedded asbestos fibers and damaged DNA determines which form of mesothelioma develops.

It often takes 10 – 50 years following asbestos exposure for patients to present mesothelioma symptoms.


How Do You Get Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos fibers. Asbestos exposure is most common in the workplace. However, exposure may also occur through natural asbestos in the environment or secondary exposure.


Occupational Exposure

Here is a list of occupations with a high risk of asbestos exposure:

  • Asbestos miners
  • Auto mechanics
  • Construction and demolition workers
  • Firefighters
  • Insulation installers
  • Machinists
  • Miners
  • Oil refinery workers
  • Power plant workers
  • Railroad workers
  • Roofing, carpentry, and floor installers
  • Shipyard workers

Asbestos regulations have increased in recent years, which helps to restrict the use of the carcinogen. However, workplace exposure is still a concern because of the wide past use of asbestos. Among those with the greatest risk of asbestos contact are firefighters and construction workers. These men and women may encounter asbestos when working in older homes and schools.

Asbestos Exposure Outside of the Workplace

Exposure can occur from the natural environment, asbestos products, or secondary contact with loved ones.

Secondhand exposure commonly occurs when asbestos fibers are brought home on asbestos workers’ hair, skin, and clothing.

Asbestos exposure may also occur among individuals with no connection to asbestos workers. The carcinogen has been found in homes and household items, which may lead to dangerous exposure. Homeowners may experience asbestos exposure when performing do-it-yourself remodeling projects. Homes built prior to 1980 are most likely to have been built with asbestos-containing construction materials.

Household products such as talcum powder, potting soils, and paint have also all been found to contain trace amounts of the mineral. Recently, children’s makeup brands have come under fire for selling makeup that contained asbestos-contaminated talcum powder.

How Can I Help Spread Mesothelioma Awareness?

There are many ways to get involved with mesothelioma and asbestos awareness. One way is to take part in Mesothelioma Awareness Day.

“Painting the world in mesothelioma blue:” The Meso Foundation encourages friends, family and others to wear blue for mesothelioma.
Local participation: Individuals can take part in a local fundraiser or start a movement in their community to raise awareness.

The Meso Foundation provides more tips for getting involved on their Mesothelioma Awareness Day page.




Filed Under: Events, Nurses, Healthcare, diseases, awareness