Asbestos exposure is well established as the primary risk factor and cause of mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer affecting the lining of the lungs and abdomen, but other risk factors have been presented in recent years.
Could genetics put you at risk?
There is some evidence that genetic make up could affect the risk of mesothelioma which could explain why some people who are exposed to asbestos do not develop mesothelioma, whilst others do.
Exposure levels and the duration of exposure undoubtedly play significant roles but researchers have found that some people are more vulnerable to asbestos fibres. For example, there are incidences of people with only a one-time exposure to asbestos who have developed mesothelioma. In these cases, researchers believe there are genetic factors that make a person more predisposed to developing mesothelioma.
Gene mutation in mesothelioma patients
Research has identified several gene mutations in patients with mesothelioma, including the BAP1 mutation which has been studied and identified as a marker for an increased likelihood of mesothelioma development in people exposed to asbestos.
People with the BAP1 mutation who are exposed to asbestos are much more likely to develop mesothelioma than other asbestos-exposed individuals who do not have the gene mutation.
When the BAP1 gene is mutated, and that mutation is passed from parent to child, the child can inherit the parent’s higher susceptibility to mesothelioma.
However, the BAP1 mutation is also an indicator of increased survival time in mesothelioma patients as it assists the suppression of cancer cells. It is understood that the BAP1 gene is responsible for producing a protein that helps suppress the tumour growth.
Research has suggested that mesothelioma patients with BAP1 mutations live 7 times longer than other mesothelioma patients.
Could this help mesothelioma sufferers in the future?
As studies explore the link between gene mutations and cancer, researchers hope to find out more about the changes in the genes of the mesothelioma cells with the aim of understanding more about how mesothelioma develops and how the changes in the genes of the cancer cells affect how well different treatments work.