Recently, a study released by researchers from the University of Hawaii revealed potentially life-saving information for individuals who have been exposed to asbestos. According to the scientific report, certain types of spots on the skin can indicate whether a person is susceptible to malignant mesothelioma. The spots, which resemble moles, occur in people who have a BAP1 gene mutation.
Scientists believe the BAP1 gene acts to suppress tumors and prevent cancer. For people who have a BAP1 gene mutation, however, the gene's ability to restrain cancer does not function correctly.
The study focused on 118 individuals, 63 of whom had the gene mutation and 55 of whom did not have any mutation. Over the course of the study, the researchers found that the individuals with the mutated genes had a much higher probability of developing the skin spots and contracting mesothelioma than those without the gene mutation. As a result, the researchers concluded that the skin spots could be the "first clinical manifestation of the BAP1 cancer syndrome."
Much like the gene mutation screening available for women with a familial history of breast cancer, the BAP1 gene mutation could pinpoint individuals who are at a greater risk of developing mesothelioma. According to the lead author of the study, "Identifying this gene as a cause of several cancers can tell us who is at risk in a family before the cancer develops."
The skin tumors and gene mutation have the potential to lead to earlier diagnoses of mesothelioma. As individuals with mesothelioma are discovered at an earlier stage, the potential to provide life-saving treatments increases.
Mesothelioma Diagnoses in the U.S.
Mesothelioma is cancer of the mesothelium, which is a thin layer of protective tissue that lines many internal organs. Mesothelioma is most often caused by exposure to asbestos, affecting both those who were personally exposed to the toxin, either at work or at home, and those who live with someone who was frequently exposed to the substance.
The most common type of mesothelioma, pleural mesothelioma, affects the lining around the lungs. Mesothelioma can also affect the mesothelial lining around the heart (pericardial mesothelioma), abdomen (peritoneal mesothelioma) and testicles (testicular mesothelioma).
Between 2,000 and 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma every year, and most cases are malignant. As mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer and is not typically detected until it has reached an advanced stage, the survival rate is relatively low.
The new study provides hope that malignant mesothelioma will be diagnosed at earlier stages more frequently in the future. Doctors would then have a longer period of time to treat the disease, allowing different types of therapies to be used to combat the spread of cancer.
The researchers pointed out that doctors will be responsible for identifying the skin spots as possible early signs of mesothelioma. When a doctor or patient believes such a spot has developed, the doctor can perform a biopsy to assess the skin tumor.
If you have noticed abnormal spots on your skin, it is best to consult with a physician to address your concerns. For those who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, it is important to hold the responsible party accountable, to provide for medical expenses and other damages. An experienced mesothelioma and asbestos attorney will ensure your rights are protected and that you receive just compensation.