Prolonged asbestos exposure can lead to different health conditions, including mesothelioma, a type of cancer that develops in the outer lining of the lungs, stomach, heart and other body organs. About 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year in the U.S., most of whom are over 65.
So, why do older people make up the high number?
A long latency period
It can take decades, 20 to 60 years, for someone to show symptoms of mesothelioma. This can make it hard for doctors to detect it earlier, and in some cases, the affected person may forget to mention they experienced asbestos exposure.
The latency period differs due to different factors, including:
- Intensity of exposure
- Duration of exposure
- Fiber type
- Secondhand exposure
Thus, someone who is exposed to high levels of asbestos for a prolonged period, such as a firefighter working on an old building, may have a shorter latency period than a family member exposed to asbestos through a loved one who brought fibers home on their clothing or bodies.
Is there any solution?
By the time mesothelioma is diagnosed, the condition is usually in a dangerous stage.
For this reason, doctors encourage people in high-risk occupations, such as those in military service, power plants, insulation, asbestos mining and processing, shipbuilding, construction, boiler maintenance, firefighting companies and textile mills, to go for checkups. This way, regular tests can be performed to identify abnormal signs sooner.
It can take decades for mesothelioma to be detected. Thus, it will help to get regular medical checks and, if doctors spot something, to learn more about your legal options.