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UER Forum > UE Encyclopedia > Mesothelioma (Viewed 4539 times)
Entry: Mesothelioma
originally posted by Antius

[last edit 2/8/2004 2:57 AM by Crispy Critter - edited 1 times]

AKA Asbestos Cancer

Mesothelioma (cancer of the mesothelium) is a disease in which cells of the mesothelium become abnormal and divide without control or order. They can invade and damage nearby tissues and organs. Cancer cells can also metastasize (spread) from their original site to other parts of the body. Most cases of mesothelioma begin in the pleura or peritoneum.

Malignant mesothelioma is an uncommon, but no longer rare, cancer that is difficult to diagnose and poorly responsive to therapy. Malignant mesothelioma is the most serious of all asbestos-related diseases.

A layer of specialized cells called mesothelial cells lines the chest cavity, abdominal cavity, and the cavity around the heart. These cells also cover the outer surface of most internal organs. The tissue formed by these cells is called mesothelium.

The mesothelium helps protect the organs by producing a special lubricating fluid that allows organs to move around. For example, this fluid makes it easier for the lungs to move inside the chest during breathing. The mesothelium of the chest is called the pleura and the mesothelium of the abdomen is known as the peritoneum. The mesothelium of the pericardial cavity (the "sac-like" space around the heart) is called the pericardium.

Tumors of the mesothelium can be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous). A malignant tumor of the mesothelium is called a malignant mesothelioma. Because most mesothelial tumors are cancerous, malignant mesothelioma is often simply called mesothelioma.


Mesothelioma was recognized as a tumor of the pleura, peritoneum and pericardium in the late 1700's. However it was not until much later, in 1960, that this particular type of tumor was described in more detail and even more importantly, its association with asbestos exposure was recognized. The first report linking mesothelioma to asbestos exposure was written by J.C.Wagner, and described 32 cases of workers in the "Asbestos Hills" in South Africa. Since then, the relationship between mesothelioma and asbestos exposure has been confirmed in studies around the world.

About three-fourths of malignant mesothelioma occurrences start in the chest cavity and is known as pleural mesothelioma. Another 10% to 20% begin in the abdomen and is called peritoneal mesothelioma. Pericardial mesothelioma, starting in the cavity around the heart, is very rare. The covering layer of the testicles is actually an out pouching of peritoneum into the scrotum. Mesothelioma that affects this covering of the testicles is quite rare.

(edit: linked to Asbestos)
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