DEAR MAYO CLINIC: What causes mesothelioma, and how is it different than lung cancer? Are there any treatments or ways to slow its progression?
ANSWER: Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer, with about 3,000 new cases reported each year in the United States. It is much less common than lung cancer. Unlike lung cancer, mesothelioma does not start within the lung tissue. It arises from the mesothelium that forms the outside lining of the lung, also called the pleura; however, mesothelioma may spread into the lungs. Rarely, it can also arise from the lining of the abdominal cavity or other internal organs. The exact cause is unclear, but there appears to be a strong association between exposure to asbestos and mesothelioma. The most common treatment for mesothelioma is chemotherapy, but a combination of different therapies can be used. Research investigating possible new treatment options is underway.