A 33-year-old medical researcher died from a cancer usually caused by asbestos, despite no history of being exposed to it, an inquest heard.
Rose Wharton died of mesothelioma at her Oxford home on 20 May, after being diagnosed in September.
Coroner Darren Salter said it was a “very unusual” case, because the illness usually only affects those who worked around asbestos for decades. He told Oxford Coroner’s Court he had never seen a case like it.
Most cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in people aged between 60 and 80, according to the NHS.
In a statement Ms Wharton’s family said she could have been exposed to the material while building a school in Argentina during her gap year when she was 18.
But Mr Salter said that as this could not be confirmed, he would have to record a narrative verdict, stating the cause of her cancer was not known.
Ms Wharton, who worked as a medical statistician and was born in Cambridge, was described as “fit and well” with no medical problems except asthma.
Her colleagues at the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Oxford said Ms Wharton would be “greatly missed”. Mr Salter said:
“I don’t think I have seen a case like this. Mesothelioma normally affects men working as plumbers or heating engineers for 30 or 40 years, but this is very different from that.”