A new Italian study  from Scientists with Sapienza University and the Lazi Regional Health Service in Rome, along with industrial experts from Viterbo, Italy  have suggest that mesothelioma can run in familes, especially those with a common history of asbestos expsoure.

They found that 3.5% of the 997 mesothelioma cases in a 32 year span tended to occur in clusters and could have a genetic link.

The most common clusters were those with affected siblings and unaffected parents,” reports Sapienza University Associate Professor Valeria Ascoli, the study’s lead author. “Asbestos exposure was occupational, household, environmental, or not attributable for insufficient information.”

The new report, published in Cancer Epidemiology, found that the highest number of familial clusters of mesothelioma cases occurred among siblings who worked in the same occupational environment. Researchers theorize that these individuals’ genes may interact with asbestos to cause the disease.

“We still don’t know why only a small fraction of people exposed to asbestos ever develop mesothelioma,” observes Cancer Monthly’s Managing Editor Alex Strauss. “If science can give us a better understanding of the genetics behind mesothelioma development, it could potentially open the door to targeted screening, earlier diagnosis, and even individualized treatments.”

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