Mesothelioma not associated with asbestos exposure

Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2012 Mar;136(3):262-7. doi: 10.5858/arpa.2011-0039-RA.


Context: Despite asbestos being identified as the single most important cause of malignant mesothelioma, the tumor is known to occur in only 10% to 20% of heavily exposed individuals. In addition, about 20% of the patients have no history of asbestos exposure even after detailed assessment. Therefore, there has been speculation for some time that asbestos alone may not be sufficient to cause mesothelioma and that other factors may be involved either as cocarcinogens or as independent mechanisms of cancer causation.

Objective: To give a brief review of nonasbestos fiber erionite and therapeutic radiation as 2 established examples of asbestos-independent mechanisms, of the potential emerging role of man-made fibers such as carbon nanotubes, and of polyoma virus SV40 (simian virus 40) as a potential example of the cocarcinogenic mode of involvement.

Data sources: Relevant recent literature has been surveyed to portray and provide the evidence in favor of the examples.

Conclusions: Erionite has emerged as the most important example of nonasbestos-mediated cause of mesothelioma in regions such as Turkey where exposure to this type of fiber is highly prevalent. Recently, the polyoma virus SV40 has been unexpectedly discovered as an effective cocarcinogen of asbestos in the causation of animal mesothelioma, though despite considerable research, its potential role in human mesothelioma remains unproven.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Asbestos / poisoning*
  • Cocarcinogenesis
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Mesothelioma / etiology*
  • Pleural Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Polyomavirus Infections / complications
  • Polyomavirus Infections / virology
  • Simian virus 40 / physiology
  • Tumor Virus Infections / complications
  • Tumor Virus Infections / virology
  • Zeolites / poisoning


  • erionite
  • Zeolites
  • Asbestos