Malignant pleural mesothelioma is caused from asbestos exposure. The outer lining of the lungs, called pleura, is embedded with airborne asbestos fibers so small they are invisible to the naked eye. The incubation period after asbestos exposure before mesothelioma lung cancer develops is 20 to 50 years or more. Most cases of mesothelioma lung cancer occur at least 15 years after exposure.
Malignant pleural mesothelioma is the most common form of mesothelioma, accounting for 75% of the 3000 cases diagnosed annually in the United States alone. This dangerous type of cancer develops within the protective tissues surrounding the lungs called the Pleura. During later stages of the disease, tumors can metastasize and spread to other areas of the body.
After periods of asbestos exposure, tiny yet rigid airborne particles become lodged into the pleura (outer lining of the lungs) where they become very difficult for the body to remove. Mesothelioma patients typically experience a latency period of 20 to 50 years or more, after the irritation created by the asbestos fibers has led to various cellular changes resulting in tumor growth.
During later stages of the disease, tumors can metastasize and spread to other areas of the body.
Mesothelioma Has a Long Period of Latency
The period of time between the initial exposure to asbestos fibers and actual diagnosis of mesothelioma is known as the latency period. Although the average latency period is 20 to 50 years. Certain factors are related to shorter latency periods, including:
- Heavy asbestos exposure, even for short periods of time. Many paramedics, firefighters, police and others who assisted in the cleanup and recovery following the 9/11 disaster have already been diagnosed with mesothelioma. Those who have been exposed to moderate amounts of asbestos on the job over long periods of time also tend to develop mesothelioma more quickly than those with lower exposure levels.
- Male gender. Men tend to have shorter latency periods than their female counterparts, although this variation is likely the result of higher exposure levels in work-related situations. Longer latency periods in women may be the result of exposure to second-hand asbestos which clung to their husband’s clothing.
- Advanced age. Some studies have linked a shorter latency period with exposure to asbestos later in life. The body’s immune system tends to decline in function with age, which may result in a more rapid onset of mesothelioma.
Asbestos and Cigarette Smoke Create a Particularly Dangerous Combination
Asbestsos fibers have also been proven to have a causative effect on other forms of lung cancer, particularly in individuals who have smoked for many years.
Research has shown that the combined impact of asbestos fiber irritation and smoking can increase a person’s chances of developing various forms of lung cancer as much as 90 times compared to smokers who have never been exposed to asbestos. Sadly, the Kent cigarette company utilized asbestos within their filters during the years 1952 and into the mid-1960s. Considering the widespread popularity of cigarette smoking during this era, many people inhaled a significant amount of asbestos through their smoking habit.
Help is available for those who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma. You may not have to file a lawsuit to obtain compensation, so contact a qualified attorney for mesothelioma cases to learn more about what funds may be available to you or your loved ones.