Written By: Devin Golden

Pleural Mesothelioma Risk Factors

Pleural mesothelioma risk factors are aspects of a person’s life that increase their risk of getting pleural mesothelioma cancer. The main risk factors for pleural mesothelioma are occupation, age, residency, and whether they served in the U.S. military.

Karen Ritter, RN BSN

Medically Reviewed By

Karen Ritter, RN BSN

Registered Nurse

Karen Ritter, RN BSN

Medically Reviewed By

Karen Ritter, RN BSN

Registered Nurse


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Important Facts About Pleural Mesothelioma Risk Factors

  • The main risk factor for pleural mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. It is the only cause of mesothelioma.
  • All other pleural mesothelioma risk factors are related to asbestos exposure: military service, use of talc products, occupation, gender, residency and age.
  • Males are often most susceptible to asbestos exposure due to the likelihood of working in at-risk occupations, such as construction, the military.

Why Asbestos is the Main Risk Factor for Pleural Mesothelioma

Exposure to asbestos is the only cause of pleural mesothelioma, which is a rare cancer that forms in a thin tissue layer near the lungs. Asbestos is a naturally forming mineral in the earth’s soil. The mineral is durable and fire-resistant, which made it a valuable addition to homes and offices. Asbestos was mixed with paint, added to roof shingles, floor tiles, and siding, used to insulate electrical wiring, added to automobile brakes, and more.

While asbestos can be helpful in improving the durability of buildings, vehicles or Navy ships, it’s also dangerous and capable of causing cancer. When asbestos breaks apart, very fine and sharp fibers float in the air.

These fibers can be inhaled (breathed in) or ingested (swallowed). If the fibers travel through the body, they can get stuck in a thin lining called the pleura. The pleura is located between the lungs and chest wall.

Asbestos fibers that get stuck in this lining can cause cells to mutate and turn cancerous. Cancer that originates in the pleura is called pleural mesothelioma.

What Are Other Pleural Mesothelioma Risk Factors?

The main risk factors for pleural mesothelioma all are associated with asbestos exposure – as in, the likelihood of someone being exposed. Exposure to asbestos is not a random event. There are certain types of jobs that are more prone to handling asbestos or working near asbestos in a building, automobile, plane or ship.

Risk Factors for Pleural Mesothelioma

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Construction, insulation, electrical, automobile repair, shipbuilding and more jobs were risky for potential asbestos exposure.

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Military service

Military veterans in the U.S. make up 30% of mesothelioma cases and nearly half of pleural mesothelioma cases. Asbestos was used during World War II and after to build ships and aircrafts. It was also in foreign countries, and any warzones likely included disturbed asbestos due to gunfire and bombings.

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Pleural mesothelioma takes 20-50 years to develop after the fibers get stuck in the pleura, so people with this cancer are usually in their 50s, 60s, 70s or 80s.

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Men worked the pleural mesothelioma risk occupations more than women did, and males make up around 80% of pleural mesothelioma cases.

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Where you live

Some areas, such as Libby, Montana, were sites of asbestos deposits and asbestos mining. These areas had environmental exposure, which was a risk for all residents.

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Use of a talcum powder

Talc is a naturally occurring mineral just like asbestos, and the two can mix together during mining. Talc is a valued ingredient in health and beauty products for its ability to absorb moisture, and it was ground into talcum powder and sold to consumers. However, many tests confirmed the presence of asbestos in several talc products available on shelves for consumers to buy for decades.

Frequently Asked Questions About Pleural Mesothelioma Risk Factors

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What Are the Risk Factors for Pleural Mesothelioma?

The main risk factor for pleural mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos, which is the only proven cause of pleural mesothelioma. The other risk factors are all associated with the likelihood of someone being exposed to asbestos. These risks include: occupation, military service, gender and residency.

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What Are the Pleural Mesothelioma Risk Occupations?

The top pleural mesothelioma risk occupations are construction, insulation, electrical work, automobile repair, plumbers, pipefitters and shipbuilders. Other occupations, such as firefighters, bakers, hairdressers and plant workers, also have a risk of asbestos exposure.

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How Common Is Pleural Mesothelioma?

Pleural mesothelioma is not a common cancer at all, although it is the most common type of mesothelioma. There are only around 2,500 cases of mesothelioma in the United States each year. Pleural mesothelioma accounts for roughly 2,000 of these cases, making it one of the rarest cancers.

Sources & Author

Devin Golden

About the Writer, Devin Golden

Devin Golden is a content writer for Mesothelioma Guide. He produces mesothelioma-related content on various mediums, including the Mesothelioma Guide website and social media channels. Devin's objective is to translate complex information regarding mesothelioma into informative, easily absorbable content to help patients and their loved ones.