Is Mesothelioma Hereditary?

doctor holding tablet for mesothelioma research

It is relatively common for multiple people in the same family to develop mesothelioma, leading some to believe there is a genetic link present. Let's take a look at the truth about mesothelioma, risk factors, and how genetics come into play. 

Is Mesothelioma Hereditary?

In short, no. 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. However, there is some new research suggesting that certain gene mutations may make people more susceptible to a variety of cancers including mesothelioma, but only if they were exposed to asbestos.

Why There Appears to Be a Genetic Link

Mesothelioma can sometimes appear to have a genetic component because children of people who had mesothelioma or other asbestos-related conditions also end up suffering from the same illnesses, but this is caused by secondary exposure.  Secondary exposure or paraoccupational exposure occurs when people are subjected to asbestos fibers or dust but do not directly work with asbestos or asbestos-containing products.

Medical studies dating back to the mid-1960s have proven that asbestos can cause adverse health effects such as mesothelioma in those who have worked or handled asbestos or asbestos-containing products.  It has also been shown that people who shared the same workspace but did not work directly with any asbestos have an increased risk for mesothelioma, lung cancer, or asbestosis.

However, we now realize that in the past, families of workers exposed to asbestos likely have been exposed as well from the dust and fibers carried home by the workers on their skin, hair, and clothes. The asbestos dust and fibers could easily be released into the air, particularly during laundering of the contaminated clothes, thus exposing everyone in the household to this potentially deadly substance. This would explain why asbestos cancers/illnesses can run in families, but without a hereditary link.

What to Know About Secondary Exposure

The effects of secondary exposure are the same as if directly exposed.  Cases of mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis have been found in those with secondary exposure. A study (Mortality experience of family contacts of asbestos factory workers.) published by Annals of the New York Academy of Science found that out of 115 total deaths who had contact with an asbestos worker, four died from pleural mesothelioma.

Learn more about the Signs and Symptoms of Mesothelioma

If you or a loved one has developed mesothelioma, please contact us today to learn about potential financial compensation.