A rare disease, mesothelioma is a benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous) tumor affecting the mesothelium, which is a membrane that covers and protects most of the internal organs of the body.
Most of the people with malignant mesothelioma have a history of asbestos exposure at work. People who have a higher risk of this disease include:
- Shipyard workers
- People who work in asbestos mines and mills
- Producers of asbestos products
- Workers in the heating and construction industries.
This condition doesn't always occur directly after exposure to asbestos. In fact, signs and symptoms sometimes will not appear until 30 to 50 years after the initial exposure.
(For more information, including how cancerous mesothelioma is treated, click Mesothelioma.)