What is mesothelioma and why is it linked to talc?

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What is mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a fairly rare form of cancer. It’s therefore understandable that many people want to know what mesothelioma is when they’ve received a diagnosis.

Statistics reported by Cancer Research UK state that there are approximately 2,718 cases of mesothelioma reported in the UK each year. This is less than 1% of the total cancer cases reported.

Mesothelioma develops in the mesothelium. This is the lining, or membrane, that covers and protects some of the body’s organs. Most commonly, it affects the pleura, which is the lining of the lungs. However, it can also affect the abdomen, the heart and the testicles.

Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer and sadly there’s no cure. However, there are various treatments which may help to ease the pain and slow down its progression.

What causes mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos. Asbestos dust contains microscopic fibres which, when inhaled, can damage the mesothelium cells. This results in changes, over a long period of time, and can eventually turn cancerous.

Usually, it takes more than 20 years after the asbestos exposure before mesothelioma develops. Because of this, those who receive a diagnosis of mesothelioma are usually in their later years of life.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a natural mineral which is made up of microscopic fibres. It was therefore mined from rock deposits for decades.

There are numerous types of asbestos, with each type belonging to one of two asbestos mineral families: 

  • Serpentine:  Chrysotile asbestos is the only type of asbestos which falls into the serpentine family.  
  • Amphibole:  Types of asbestos in the amphibole family include actinolite, amosite, anthophyllite, crocidolite and tremolite.

Asbestos has heat, chemical and fire resistant qualities. For that reason, it was used for decades in thousands of products. The industry it was most commonly used in was construction.

In 1999, asbestos was banned in the UK because of the risk to people’s health. As a result, the risk of being exposed to asbestos has since reduced dramatically.

What are the symptoms of mesothelioma?

Extreme tiredness, loss of appetite and weight loss are all symptoms of mesothelioma. If you have mesothelioma of the pleura, which affects your lungs, you may also develop chest pain and a persistent cough.

If mesothelioma is affecting your abdomen, symptoms may also include diarrhoea or constipation, sickness and stomach pain.

If you find yourself with any of these symptoms, and believe you were exposed to asbestos, you should visit your GP without delay.

How is mesothelioma diagnosed?

If you attend your GP with symptoms of mesothelioma, they’re likely to refer you to a hospital for further tests. Tests are likely to include an x-ray, CAT scan, ultrasound scan and biopsy. They may also drain fluid. These tests will confirm whether or not you have a diagnosis of mesothelioma.

If you do receive a diagnosis of mesothelioma following the tests, you may be asked to undergo further tests to see how advanced the cancer is. Determining this is important as it will confirm what sort of treatment is available for you.

Who's most at risk of developing mesothelioma?

Decades ago, asbestos was used heavily in the construction industry. It’s therefore no surprise that people (usually men) who worked with, or close to, asbestos during that period are most at risk. As it takes many years after exposure to asbestos for mesothelioma to develop, those most at risk are likely to be men in their later years of life.

Although it’s most commonly men who worked with asbestos many years ago who develop mesothelioma, there are others. These include:

  • Those who washed the clothes of the men who worked with asbestos many years ago
  • Those who lived near asbestos factories
  • Those who worked in old buildings such as schools and colleges
  • Those who used talcum powder products on a regular basis for a prolonged period of time

Why is talc linked to mesothelioma?

Like asbestos, talc is a natural mineral. It’s made up of magnesium, silicon and oxygen and is mined from rock deposits before it’s crushed into a fine powder.

Both talc and asbestos minerals naturally form close to one another. When talc is mined, it’s extremely difficult to separate the two minerals so there’s a significant risk of cross-contamination.

The significant risk of cross-contamination means that there’s a high probability that asbestos fibres have been present in talcum powder products. Given how dangerous asbestos fibres are, the regular use of contaminated talcum powder products has put consumers at risk of developing mesothelioma.

In addition, as talcum powder is used to absorb moisture and reduce friction, it’s often used in the genital area. As a result, there’s also a risk that it may cause types of ovarian cancer.

Contact us

We’re currently pursuing a group claim against talcum powder manufacturers. Manufacturers failed to warn people of the risks of using talcum powder.  

If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, and have used talcum powder products regularly, you have the right to seek justice and compensation.  

We have extensive experience in successfully representing consumers in group action claims and achieving justice for them. As a result, our lawyers have secured substantial awards of compensation for consumers who’ve been wronged. 

Simply click the button below to join the claim or visit our talc FAQs page to find out more.