Dustin Diamond is questioning what caused him to develop lung cancer and is reportedly speculating whether it may be the result of his frequent travel—in particular, whether he was exposed to mold or asbestos in his lodgings.
It was recently announced that the “Saved By The Bell” actor has been diagnosed with stage 4 small-cell lung cancer (SCLC) and is currently undergoing chemotherapy and physical therapy.
According to TMZ, a representative for the “Saved By The Bell” actor explained that “Dustin’s worked all over the country on film sets and at comedy clubs for meet-and-greets … and sometimes had to stay in pretty questionable hotels and motels, because there were no other options.”
It is perhaps here—at one of the “questionable” places he stayed—Diamond, who is reportedly not a smoker, wonders if he could have breathed in mold or asbestos that caused SCLC, per the outlet. (TMZ also previously reported that while Diamond was diagnosed with stage 4 SCLC, “we’re told the cancer started elsewhere in his body and metastasized in his lungs.”)
There is currently no evidence to support Diamond’s theory that mold can cause lung cancer—or any cancer. A 2004 report conducted by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) found that “there is inadequate or insufficient information to determine whether an association exists between [cancer] and exposure to a damp indoor environment or the presence of mold or other agents associated with damp indoor environments.” Subsequent IOM reports reached similar conclusions.
That’s not to say that exposure to mold is safe, although this varies widely from person to person, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While some people may not have any adverse health effects from mold exposure, others may be more sensitive to it and sustain symptoms including “stuffy nose, wheezing, and red or itchy eyes, or skin.” People with mold allergies or who have asthma may also be affected, per the CDC, as well as people who are exposed to mold for prolonged periods of time for work.
WebMD reports one possible, albeit unlikely, scenario linking mold to lung cancer: “Mold can cause pulmonary fibrosis (PF), which is scarring in your lungs. If you have PF for a long time, it can make you more likely to get lung cancer. But most of the time, people don’t know how they got PF, and mold isn’t a leading cause. So even this possibility isn’t strong.”
However, asbestos is a known cause of lung cancer, although no such confirmed link has been reported in Diamond’s case. Asbestos.com cites asbestos as the cause of 4% of lung cancer cases, noting that asbestos-related lung cancer is responsible for twice the amount of deaths of mesothelioma. The combination of cigarette smoking and asbestos exposure increases the risk even more.