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  • What is mesothelioma?
    • Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer which is almost always caused by exposure to asbestos.

      The most common sites for mesothelioma are in the chest or belly, where cells become abnormal in response to asbestos fibers that have embedded in:
      * the outer lining of the lungs or chest cavity,
      * the lining of the abdominal cavity (belly), or
      * the sac that surrounds the heart.

  • What is asbestos?
    • Asbestos is a group of minerals that occur naturally in the environment as bundles of fibers that can be separated into thin, durable threads. These fibers are resistant to heat, fire, and chemicals and do not conduct electricity. For these reasons, asbestos has been used widely in many industries.

  • How is mesothelioma related to the environment?
    • Exposure to asbestos particles in the air is the major risk factor for mesothelioma. This type of cancer happens when harmful, or malignant, cells develop in the protective lining that covers most of the body's internal organs.

      As the link between asbestos and mesothelioma became clearer in the late 1970s, use of asbestos went down, and most use stopped by 1989. Experts believe that mesothelioma incidence rates are not going up because of the drop in asbestos use after this link to cancer was discovered.

  • What are the risk factors for mesothelioma?
    • The main risk factor for developing mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. Most cases of mesothelioma have been linked to asbestos exposure in the workplace. This exposure may result from the following:
      * mining or milling materials,
      * fireproofing the superstructures of building or ships,
      * maintaining railroad or automotive brakes,
      * insulating pipes and ductwork,
      * release of materials to the air by water or demolition,
      * being near a road paved with crushed serpentine stone, and
      * handling the work clothes of asbestos miners or millers.

  • How can you prevent mesothelioma?
    • The best way to reduce your risk of mesothelioma is to limit your exposure to asbestos in homes, in public buildings, and at work.

      If you live in an older home, there may be insulation with asbestos or other materials. An expert should check your home to find out if there is any asbestos, whether it poses any risk to you, and if so, the best way to take care of it. If there is a chance you might be exposed to asbestos at work, then you should use all protective equipment and follow safety procedures for working around asbestos.

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Last Revised: January 28, 2014


Data Query

Mesothelioma Cancer Data
Access the mesothelioma cancer data in the WI EPHT online database. Review the Data Details below to learn about interpreting the data.

The WI EPHT online database has data about other specific cancers:

Data Details

What is the data source?

The website provides data from the Wisconsin Cancer Reporting System, which is maintained by the Office of Health Informatics, Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

How does WI EPHT measure cancer?

The WI EPHT website includes the following measures:

  • counts for each cancer type
  • age adjusted rate for each cancer type

What are some considerations for interpreting the data?

While significant effort is made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the data, there are limitations that are listed below:

  • Reporting may be less complete from rural versus urban areas of the state.
  • Reporting may be less complete for cases where diagnosis and/or treatment occurs in a different state.
  • Reporting completeness is different depending on the type of cancer.

There are many factors that can contribute to a disease and should be considered when interpreting the data. Some of these include:

  • Demographics, e.g., race, gender, age
  • Socioeconomic Status, e.g., income level, education
  • Geographic, e.g., urban vs. rural
  • Changes in the medical field, e.g., diagnosis patterns, reporting requirements
  • Individual behavior, e.g., diet, smoking