Mesothelioma can affect a number of different parts of the body, most commonly it is found in the lining of the lungs. This is known as pleural mesothelioma. The second most common area to be affected is the abdomen. This is called peritoneal mesothelioma.
Peritoneal mesothelioma is almost always shown to be caused by exposure to asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral that was used extensively in the UK construction industry in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.
Peritoneal mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer and symptoms can include swelling of the abdomen, nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea or constipation, fatigue and night sweats.
A study published earlier this year has looked into whether there is a link between peritoneal mesothelioma and Crohn’s disease.
Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory disease affecting the intestine. Symptoms of Crohn’s can include abdominal pain, extreme tiredness, recurring diarrhoea, weight loss and blood and/or mucus in stools.
The study, conducted by researchers at Duke University, noted that both conditions share a symptom, namely, inflammation.
In mesothelioma, inflammation or inflammatory reactions have been found to promote the growth of mesothelial tumours. In Crohn’s patients, inflammation of the small intestine prevents absorption of nutrients. The study suggests that those with Crohn’s may be at a higher risk of developing peritoneal mesothelioma as a result of this inflammation.
The study looked at a database of 3,800 mesothelioma patients and identified three patients who had been diagnosed with both, peritoneal mesothelioma and inflammatory bowel disease, namely Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis. In these three cases, only one patient had known asbestos exposure.
Professor at Duke University, Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, Kelly J Butnor, MD, said ‘Chronic inflammation has been associated with the development of malignant mesothelioma in rare instances and these three cases suggest that Crohn’s disease with transmural inflammation may also be a precursor”.
Whist this paper does suggest there is a link between peritoneal mesothelioma and Crohn’s disease, the research is still at an early stage and further investigations are needed to determine a more concrete relationship.
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Source: Butnor, KJ, et al, “Malignant peritoneal mesothelioma and Crohn’s disease,” August, 2, 2016, Journal of Clinical Pathology.