Risks of Mesothelioma & Lung Cancer in Relation to Asbestos
by Contributing Writer
Asbestos has been recognized as a dangerous substance for centuries. Medical problems related to asbestos exposure date back to Roman times when slaves died young due to asbestos exposure during work. As of 2009, the majority of people are aware of the dangers of asbestos,however, exposure still does occur in certain industries or in improperly retrofitted areas.
Asbestos and Cancer
Three major health risks are associated with asbestos exposure, including lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis. Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that is only diagnosed in those who have had exposure to asbestos. Lung cancer is also linked with asbestos exposure. These forms of cancer can develop many years after asbestos exposure, so for lung cancer, proving a causal connection between the asbestos and the cancer may be more difficult.
What is Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is a cancer in the mesothelium that is caused by inhaling fibers from asbestos. The mesothelium is a protective membrane that coats many body parts, including the lungs. While mesothelioma often takes anywhere from 20 to 50 years to develop, it may also develop much quicker. In 2009, people exposed to large amounts of asbestos following the World Trade Tower attacks of 9/11 are already being diagnosed with mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma causes difficulty breathing, coughs, chest pain, fevers, back pain, stomach pain and insomnia. There is no cure for mesothelioma, although some patients have surgery to remove the lung or chemotherapy, to attempt to alleviate symptoms and extend longevity.
Risk of Mesothelioma After Exposure
There are approximately 2,000 to 3,000 cases of mesothelioma diagnosed annually. The majority of those diagnosed are men between the ages of 50 and 70 who worked in fields in which they were exposed to asbestos, prior to the 1970s.
Mesothelioma may also be responsible for causing lung cancer. Approximately 3,400 to 8,500 of the annual lung cancer diagnoses are caused by asbestos exposure. Because there may be a long period between exposure and the development of the cancer, is difficult to predict how many of the lung cancer cases were actually caused by asbestos. However, one out of every seven patients with mesothelioma will eventually be diagnosed with asbestos-related lung cancer as well.
Although there is more awareness of the dangers of mesothelioma and cancer, exposure to asbestos is still possible today. Asbestos is prevalent in old buildings and in imported automobile brakes from countries without asbestos bans. Asbestos exposure causes no immediate symptoms, so contrary to popular belief you will not have a headache or other warning signs to alert you to the fact that you are being exposed to asbestos. The more prolonged the exposure, the greater the chance of developing lung cancer and mesothelioma.