Is Mesothelioma in Young Adults Becoming More Common?

Awareness // September 17, 2020
Mesothelioma in Young Adults

The average age for a pleural mesothelioma diagnosis is 72. Older men are often more likely to develop mesothelioma. Researchers predict this is from men holding high-risk asbestos occupations during the height of asbestos use.

However, over the past decade, more cases of mesothelioma have emerged in young adults. Some cases have involved children.

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Prevalence of Mesothelioma in Young Adults

Children, young adults and middle-age adults comprise the smallest number of mesothelioma diagnoses. According to 2013 – 2017 data, the most diagnoses occurred in the 75–79 age group.

New Cases of Mesothelioma by Age 2013 – 2017
20 – 24 years old21 new cases
25 – 29 years old54 new cases
30 – 34 years old71 new cases
35 – 39 years old116 new cases

The above data is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Data was unavailable for age groups under 20 years old.

There were only 21 reported cases for those between the ages of 20 and 24. In comparison, there were 2,883 reported cases for those between the ages of 75 and 79.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to keep track of mesothelioma deaths and diagnoses. Looking at current and future data can help identify trends in diagnoses in young adults.

Example Cases of Mesothelioma in Young Adults: 

  • A 23-year-old woman diagnosed with mesothelioma, potentially after exposure from asbestos in an old shed or from ingesting asbestos fibers.
  • A 26-year-old man diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma, potentially after exposure as a child in school.

Mesothelioma Diagnoses Decades After Exposure

Mesothelioma cancer has a long latency period. In other words, it can take 10 – 50 years for an individual to develop symptoms after their initial exposure.

Asbestos is a known cause of malignant mesothelioma. It is also the main cause of the majority of mesothelioma cases.

Those diagnosed with mesothelioma in the 24 – 29 age group could have been exposed to asbestos at a very young age.

Types of Asbestos Exposure for Young Adults

Young adults could have been exposed to asbestos through:

  • Asbestos in the home
  • Asbestos at school
  • Other asbestos-containing products

Historically, asbestos exposure was common when the mineral was being mined and manufactured into products. This was the case until 1979 when regulations went into place for the United States.

However, asbestos products are still in use today. This is especially true in homes and school buildings built before 1979.

Young Adults and Asbestos in the Home

Asbestos can be found in:

  • Insulation
  • Floor tiles
  • Ceiling tiles
  • Roofing
  • Adhesives
  • Other building materials

Children may experience exposure through contact with aging or damaged materials.

For instance, asbestos-containing products may be disturbed during home repairs or DIY projects. Renovations and other do-it-yourself projects have been increasingly popular over the past decade.

The past few months have resulted in a surge of house projects. During stay-at-home orders for the COVID-19 pandemic, many homeowners are tackling renovations and DIY projects.

When asbestos-containing materials are not handled by professionals, asbestos fibers may become airborne and result in exposure.

Young Adults and Asbestos in Schools

Asbestos in schools continues to be a problem. For example, asbestos has been found in:

  • School piping
  • Damaged ceiling tiles
  • Chipped flooring

News outlets have reported layers of asbestos found on childrens’ desks and work tables.

Some teachers have also been diagnosed with mesothelioma after workplace exposure.

Young Adults and Asbestos Products

Many uses of asbestos are now banned in the United States. However, low levels of asbestos are still allowed in certain products. The lack of regulations can result in asbestos unknowingly entering the market.

For example, a crime scene investigation toy, crayons and childrens’ makeup sets are products that have tested positive for asbestos fibers. Recently, contaminated makeup was sold at Claire’s and Justice, both children’s stores.

Mesothelioma Risk Factors for Young Adults

Mesothelioma researchers continue to identify risk factors and other potential causes of the cancer. Currently, the largest risk factor for mesothelioma is asbestos exposure.

Additional risk factors include:

  • Radiation exposure
  • Zeolites
  • High aspect ratio nanoparticles (HARNs)
  • Simian Virus 40 (SV40)
  • BAP1 gene mutation

Smoking is also a potential risk factor. Studies have identified smokers as more likely to develop asbestos-related diseases, such as asbestosis and asbestos lung cancer.

If individuals of any age have experienced asbestos exposure, they should inform their physician. Frequent monitoring can help identify asbestos-related diseases early. Through early intervention, patients can often undergo aggressive treatment options to improve their prognosis.