Mesothelioma is a serious health condition that is caused by prolonged exposure to asbestos. It can take anywhere from 20 to 50 years for the disease to develop after initial exposure. Even after exposure to asbestos has ceased, the risk of developing mesothelioma does not decrease. In fact, the risk of mesothelioma seems to last a lifetime.
It is very rare for mesothelioma to develop in less than 15 years after initial exposure to asbestos. Most adults who are diagnosed with mesothelioma were exposed to asbestos in the workplace and it took decades for the cancer to develop. The effects of prolonged exposure to asbestos usually do not appear until 10-40 years after initial exposure. Studies have shown that the risk of developing mesothelioma increases after exposure to asbestos has ceased.
While the rate of increase seems to begin to stabilize after 40 to 50 years, no one survives long enough for the excess risk to go away. The main cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos fibers or asbestos dust. It usually takes 20 to 60 years after exposure to asbestos for a person to develop mesothelioma. Symptoms of mesothelioma tend to develop gradually over time and usually don't appear until several decades after exposure to asbestos.
The most common form of mesothelioma is pleural mesothelioma, which develops in the mesothelium of the lungs. Theoretically, the older the person is at the time of exposure, the more difficult it might be for the body to remove asbestos fibers or control the damage they cause, which could lead to a shorter latency period. In some cases, people have developed mesothelioma from short-term, high-level exposure to asbestos. Those with peritoneal and pleural mesothelioma had an 83% shorter latency time ratio than those with a single form of cancer.
Additionally, studies have shown that the combination of smoking and exposure to asbestos is particularly dangerous. The Government Carcinogenicity Commission showed that the risk of developing mesothelioma in the life of a 5-year-old child is approximately five times higher than that of a 30-year-old adult.In a retrospective study that looked at male and female patients who had experienced occupational exposure to asbestos, researchers found that female patients had a 29% longer latency period than male patients. Treatment for mesothelioma helps control the disease for a longer period of time and improves the quality of life for some people.Because mesothelioma is often diagnosed at an advanced stage, treatment usually focuses on controlling symptoms and prolonging life as long as possible. Although pleural mesothelioma involves the lining of the lungs, it is not lung cancer and is diagnosed and treated differently.
Exposure to secondhand asbestos occurs when a person directly exposed to asbestos accidentally exposes others to asbestos fibers left on their body or clothing.