There are approximately 2,500 to 3,000 mesothelioma cases diagnosed in the United States each year. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) indicates that global numbers of mesothelioma cases are on the rise. The latency period of asbestos-related disease may be contributing to this increase.
Researchers studied mesothelioma patient data from the Global Burden of Disease database, spanning from 1990 to 2017. The data included patients from 195 countries and territories. Over the 27-year period, there was a substantial increase in both mesothelioma diagnoses, from 21,224 in 1990 to 34,615 in 2017. The number of deaths related to mesothelioma also increased over this period, from 17,406 to 29,909. In the U.S., the number of diagnoses has been steadily decreasing, but the CDC reported an increase in mesothelioma deaths, from 2,479 in 1999 to 2,597 in 2015, an increase of approximately five percent.
Long Latency Period of Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma does not appear immediately after exposure to asbestos. When asbestos fibers become airborne, they can be inhaled or ingested and get permanently lodged in the lungs. Over time, they damage the surrounding mesothelial cells, and after decades of this damage, those cells mutate and grow, causing tumors to form. It is extremely rare for patients to develop tumors less than 10 years after asbestos exposure. For most patients, it takes 10 to 60 years or longer for the disease to appear. Due to this latency period, patients who were exposed to asbestos decades ago may still be diagnosed with mesothelioma.
This also accounts for the relative age of patients, with a large majority of mesothelioma deaths occurring in patients age 65 and older. The CDC study shows that deaths related to mesothelioma actually decreased in patients ages 35 to 64 between 1999 and 2015. Patients aged 85 and older showed the biggest increase in mesothelioma deaths. It is likely that many of these older patients were working in asbestos-heavy industries before safety measure were put in place.
Asbestos has been regulated since the 1980s, when the link between asbestos and deadly disease was already widely recognized for many years. Before these restrictions, however, asbestos was a popular additive in numerous consumer products and construction materials, such as insulation, drywall, floor and ceiling tiles, cement products, and more. People were regularly exposed to asbestos for much of the 20th century, particularly those working in asbestos-heavy industries, such as construction, shipbuilding, oil refining, manufacturing, automotive, mining, and plumbing.
New Asbestos Exposure Risks
Despite the restrictions, asbestos has not been completely banned worldwide. Workers in high-risk industries may still encounter asbestos in the workplace, though there are stricter safety guidelines in place that they should be following. Asbestos products are still present in some older buildings, and if they are disturbed due to renovation or wear and tear, they can release asbestos dust into the air. There is no known safe level of asbestos exposure.
Philadelphia Mesothelioma Lawyers at Shein Law Advocate for Mesothelioma Patients
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, lung cancer, or another asbestos-related disease, contact our Philadelphia mesothelioma lawyers at Shein Law to learn more. Located in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Call 877-743-4652 or contact us online to discuss your case.