Mesothelioma, in comparison to a number of other cancers, is quite rare. However, it still remains a very real threat to those who once worked with the mineral asbestos. These individuals – including those who worked in shipbuilding, construction, oil refineries, chemical and power plants, auto repair, railroads, and many other jobs – are at constant risk for developing the disease, even if their exposure was minimal and occurred long ago.
- Not everyone who worked with asbestos will develop an asbestos-related disease like mesothelioma. Doctors do not know why some people are prone to the disease while others can escape unharmed. Prolonged exposure does increase the incidence of mesothelioma, though there is evidence that extreme exposure for a short amount of time can prompt the disease, as with 9/11 emergency responders who died of the disease within about 5 years of exposure.
- You do not have to experience direct exposure to asbestos to get mesothelioma. There are many cases of second-hand exposure brought on by exposure to asbestos dust brought home on the clothes or body of a loved one who worked with the mineral.
Important Statistics about the Disease
- About 2,000 to 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma are reported in the U.S. annually. Around the world, another 10,000 or so cases are diagnosed each year.
- Approximately 80 percent of all cases can be directly linked to mesothelioma exposure, usually on the job.
- Men are three times more likely to be the victims of mesothelioma than women. That’s simply because more men worked in jobs where asbestos was used and this statistic has nothing to do with gender.
- The average age of a mesothelioma victim is 65. However, second-hand mesothelioma sufferers tend to be younger because they are often the adult children of those who worked with the mineral and brought the dust home on their clothes.
- Mesothelioma has a long latency period and can remain undetected for up to 50 years, in some cases.
- The one-year survival rate for mesothelioma is now about 40-45 percent. The five-year survival rate is low and stands at about 10 percent though this has improved slightly over the last decade.
- The average length of survival for a mesothelioma victim is approximately 10-12 months after diagnosis. Advanced age of victims and their general overall health have a large impact on this number.
- American Cancer Society: "How is Malignant Mesothelioma Diagnosed". http://www.cancer.org/docroot/CRI/content/CRI_2_4_3X_How_is_malignant_mesothelioma_diagnosed_29.asp?rnav=cri
Last modified: April 13, 2010.