Mesothelioma is a rare and fatal cancer caused by asbestos exposure. Traditionally, victims of mesothelioma included men in high-risk occupations, including construction, naval work, and other industrial positions, as well as many roles in the U.S. military. Recent data shows that the gender gap is closing, however, with more women being diagnosed with this disease.
Approximately 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year in the U.S. The Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) database has been tracking new mesothelioma cases since 1975 and has reported an increase in the number of women being diagnosed with the disease. Currently, about one in four new mesothelioma patients is female, which represents an eight percent increase over the database’s average.
Exposure in High-Risk Industries
Asbestos is fire resistant and extremely versatile, which made it ideal for building materials such as floor and ceiling tiles, insulation, adhesives, and drywall. It has numerous other uses, including brake and clutch pads, cement, and even fabrics. In particular, the Navy found it to be very effective in insulating boiler rooms on ships. Asbestos use reached its peak in the early 1980s, when it was discovered that it was a carcinogen. At that time, men made up the bulk of the workforce in industries that would typically be exposed to asbestos.
Though the ratio of men to women in these fields is shifting, men are still the majority in these high-risk industries. Additionally, the typical latency period for mesothelioma is 20 to 50 years, so many people are being diagnosed today due to their exposure in the 1980s or earlier. In order to account for the increase in diagnoses in women, exposure sources outside the workplace must be considered.
Surprising Sources of Asbestos Exposure
Women who do not work in high-risk occupations but interact with people who do may suffer from secondary, or secondhand, exposure to asbestos. Workers can bring asbestos home with them on dust-covered clothes or shoes, in their hair, or on their skin. This, known as household exposure puts other family members at risk, even though they did not interact with asbestos themselves.
Many older buildings that were constructed before the 1980s still contain asbestos. As schools, homes, and office buildings are renovated or torn down, the asbestos is disturbed and can travel through the air, ventilation systems, or irrigation systems. Asbestos abatement is a complex process that has very stringent safety regulations. Contractors who are not certified or choose to cut corners during asbestos abatement put their employees and any visitors to the site at risk for asbestos-related disease.
Younger Women Being Diagnosed
Not only is the number of women receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis growing, but the database also shows that more women are being diagnosed at a younger age. Most mesothelioma patients are diagnosed between ages 75 and 84. The average latency period for women who develop mesothelioma is 48 years, compared to 53 for men. However, recent data reveals that more women are developing the disease between the ages of 35 and 39. This trend suggests that non-occupational exposure may be occurring earlier in life, possibly even in infancy.
Different Types of Mesothelioma
While approximately 75-80 percent of patients suffer from pleural mesothelioma, which infects the lining of the lungs, the majority of women fatally injured from the disease were diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma, which presents in the lining of the abdomen. Peritoneal mesothelioma is relatively rare and it is often mistaken for other conditions. Patients who are diagnosed in a timely manner, however, often have a better prognosis, as there are unique treatments, such as hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC), available to them that are not available to pleural mesothelioma patients.
Because women do not fit the traditional mold of a mesothelioma patient, they are often misdiagnosed. Once the cancer is properly identified, it may be at an advanced stage, leaving patients with a short life expectancy. Women who suffer from mesothelioma or other asbestos-related disease may be entitled to compensation from those responsible for their asbestos exposure, even it they were exposed secondhand.
South Jersey Mesothelioma Lawyers at Shein Law Advocate for Women Suffering from Mesothelioma
South Jersey mesothelioma lawyers at Shein Law have the knowledge and experience to handle all types of asbestos exposure cases. Our knowledgeable, experienced lawyers will determine who is at fault for your asbestos exposure and prepare an aggressive legal strategy to get you the compensation you deserve. With offices conveniently located in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, we help mesothelioma patients and their families throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Call us today at 1-877-SHEINLAW (743-4652) or contact us online to discuss your case.