Mesothelioma, a deadly cancer caused primarily by the inhalation of asbestos fibers, attacks the mesothelium, a protective, two-layered membrane that covers the internal organs of the body including the lungs, heart, and abdominal organs.
Mesothelioma takes anywhere from 20 to 50 years to develop, which is why it’s more commonly diagnosed in older individuals. This deadly disease most often affects men between the ages of 50 and 70 who were employed in an asbestos-laden environment before asbesto regulations were imposed in the late 1970s. Occupations most associated with mesothelioma are shipyard workers, electricians, plumbers, construction industry workers, pipefitters, boilermakers, and anyone subject to heavy exposure to dangerous airborne asbestos fibers.
Though still significantly rarer than other cancers, an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year in the United States. Some other countries, such as the United Kingdom and Australia, report a much higher incidence of the disease.