Mesothelioma is a very frightening form of cancer. It has a lower five-year survival rate than many other cancers and doesn’t often respond well to many treatments. It also takes decades to develop. Mesothelioma has a very strong relationship with asbestos exposure. Those who inhale particulate asbestos have an elevated risk of eventually developing mesothelioma, although not everyone exposed eventually develops cancer.
Companies in a variety of different industries have used asbestos for decades in products ranging from insulation to water sanitizing chemicals. Therefore, those who work in industrial settings have more risk than others of asbestos exposure and mesothelioma. Historically, men have made up the vast majority of individuals with mesothelioma. While that is still true today, the number of women dying from this aggressive form of cancer has drastically increased.
What does modern research show?
Over the course of two decades, the number of female patients dying of mesothelioma increased significantly. In 1999, 489 women died of mesothelioma. By 2020, that had increased to 614 female fatalities. That’s a 79% increase in fatalities in just 21 years! Women may have a harder time getting a diagnosis of mesothelioma initially because they likely will not have had direct workplace exposure to asbestos to report to their doctor. A substantial number of the women diagnosed with mesothelioma did not work outside of the home at all. Why have the rates of women dying of mesothelioma increased?
Secondary exposure and changing culture may be to blame
The first and most obvious reason that more women may now develop mesothelioma is that more women work outside of the home and have for several decades. Even those in non-manufacturing positions may have had environmental exposure if the workers at a company that employed them handled asbestos. Homemakers developing mesothelioma may have become ill due to secondary or second-hand exposure. Their spouses, children or parents may have brought asbestos home on their clothing or bodies. Secondhand exposure can be sufficient to cause asbestos-related illnesses like mesothelioma.
Even if a mesothelioma patient did not personally work for a company that exposed workers to asbestos, an illness caused by asbestos exposure (or secondary exposure) like mesothelioma might give them grounds for a civil lawsuit. Holding a company responsible for exposing workers and their family members to asbestos may be one of the only ways for those with mesothelioma to secure rightful compensation for the costs associated with their illness.