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Why is There an Increase of Mesothelioma in Women?

A recent retrospective study of nearly 30 years of mesothelioma patient data reveals an alarming trend: more women are being diagnosed with mesothelioma. Mesothelioma, a rare and deadly cancer caused by asbestos exposure, has historically been much more prevalent in men, who were at higher risk of encountering asbestos at work. Now the balance is tipping, and higher proportions of women are being diagnosed with the devastating disease.

Women and Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos exposure in the workplace was common for much of the 20th century, before the use of the substance became heavily restricted. Workers in numerous industries including construction, automotive, plumbing, mining, manufacturing, the military, and other businesses were routinely exposed to asbestos. Many of these were male-dominated fields, leading to high rates of mesothelioma diagnosis among men, but more women are taking on these roles in the 21st century.

These are not the only sources of potential asbestos exposure that may put women at risk, however; secondary exposure can occur when asbestos fibers cling to a worker’s clothes, shoes, tools, and car and are then taken home with them, exposing their family members. Moreover, women may encounter asbestos in older buildings constructed with asbestos materials, many of which are now being renovated, leading to more airborne asbestos fibers. Asbestos also continues to be used in some consumer products, risking exposure. Recently, the Food and Drug Administration has also found asbestos in talc-based products like baby powder and cosmetics. Applying these products directly to skin can leave consumers vulnerable to inhaling asbestos particles and developing mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma in Women Versus Men

Researchers at the Ottawa Hospital Cancer Center gathered data on 337 mesothelioma patients diagnosed between 1991 and 2019. They charted trends in patient demographics and outcomes, as well as the similarities and differences in treatment plans. Although the study showed a slight improvement in patients’ overall survival rates, it also showed significant increase in the proportion of women among mesothelioma patients. In the first decade of the study, from 1991 to 1999, women accounted for 11.6 percent of mesothelioma diagnoses, but by 2019, the percentage had grown to 20.5. Other research shows that this percentage is still increasing; as of January 2021, approximately 25 percent of the 3,000 annual cases of mesothelioma in the United States were women.

Some data suggests that women may experience the disease differently than men. Although the Ottawa study showed an increase in the average age of diagnosis, from 65.8 years to 75 years, many women are diagnosed at a younger age, some as early as their 30s. This could help to explain why women have better average survival rates than men, as younger patients tend to be in better overall health. One-year survival rates after diagnosis are about 45 percent for women, versus 38 percent for men.

Pleural mesothelioma, which infects the lining of the lungs and chest cavity, is the most common type of mesothelioma in both men and women, but women are also more likely than men to be diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma, which infects the lining of the abdomen. Pleural mesothelioma diagnoses are two times more frequent than peritoneal mesothelioma in women, but about five times more frequent in men.

Philadelphia Mesothelioma Lawyers at Shein Law Advocate for Asbestos Exposure Victims

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, call the Philadelphia mesothelioma lawyers at Shein Law. We have successfully represented clients in all types of asbestos exposure cases, and we are committed to getting you the compensation to which you are entitled. Call us at 877-743-4652 or contact us online to discuss your case. With offices in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we proudly serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

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