Know the Facts and Statistics

Many Americans have been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called mesothelioma. In fact, less than 0.3% of all cancer diagnoses in the United States are classified as mesothelioma which is usually caused by exposure to asbestos. 

There are about 3,000 cases of mesothelioma annually in the United States and the disease seems to favor men over women. Because the disease has an average latency period of over 40 years, most mesothelioma patients are over the age of 60 when they are diagnosed. 

An estimated 38,400 deaths occur each year from mesothelioma worldwide.

Some countries with the fewest number of mesothelioma cases include Japan and Central Europe, while the countries that have the most cases include the United Kingdom, Canada, Netherlands, Malta, Belgium, Australia, and New Zealand.

Causes of Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is caused by prolonged exposure to asbestos. The National Organization for Rare Disorders claims, “approximately 70 to 80% of affected individuals have a significant history of asbestos exposure making it the major associated risk factor for the development of mesothelioma.” This means that most, if not all cases of mesothelioma are caused by exposure to asbestos. 

Asbestos is extremely resistant to fire, so many early 20th century construction industries used asbestos for insulation, brake linings, roofing products, floor tiles, and cement. Asbestos was primarily used in the United States during the 1930s to 1960s and slowly tapered off with dramatic decrease after 1989. 

The most common cause of asbestos exposure is in the workplace in an industry that uses asbestos or has exposure to it.

Who Is Most at Risk of Asbestos Exposure?

Most people have the greatest risk of asbestos exposure due to their occupation.

If you work in a plant or a power generation factory, you may be at greater risk of developing mesothelioma later in your life because of the industrial use of asbestos. 

Take a look at the occupations that are at the highest risk of asbestos exposure:

  • Firefighters
  • Construction Workers
  • Chemical Refinery Laborers
  • Ship Builders
  • Manufacturing Plant Workers
  • Power Generation Plant Workers

Because of its long latency period, most people who develop mesothelioma are older, over 65.

As you can see, most of the victims of mesothelioma are blue-collar workers and plant workers. If you work in a power generation plant or a work environment that uses harmful chemicals such as asbestos, you may be at higher risk when you get older. A study of mesothelioma incidence in the U.S. claims, “in the United States, men tend to have the highest mesothelioma incidence rate, which may reflect differences in occupational exposures.”

Statistics of the Four Types of Mesothelioma

Depending on where the cancer originates, you will be classified as one of four types of mesothelioma. Treatment depends on how the location of the cancer interacts with the disease. 

  • Pleural Mesothelioma – This type of mesothelioma accounts for the majority of cases filed in the United States and is developed in the lung lining. With 2,500 diagnoses each year, pleural mesothelioma is the most common type and accounts for 80-90% of all cases.
  • Peritoneal Mesothelioma – With 500 diagnoses each year, this type of mesothelioma accounts for 15-20% of all cases. Peritoneal mesothelioma develops in the abdominal lining and is the second most common type across America.
  • Pericardial Mesothelioma – This is an extremely rare type of cancer, and with less than 50 cases each year. Pericardial mesothelioma accounts for about 1% of all mesothelioma. This rare type develops within the lining of the heart.
  • Testicular Mesothelioma – This is the rarest type of mesothelioma with only about 100 cases described in medical literature. This form develops in the testicular lining. 

Survival Rates of Mesothelioma

Between 1999 and 2015, 45,221 Americans have died from mesothelioma and 80% of those deaths were among men over the age of 65.

There are four different stages of mesothelioma and the expected survival time varies greatly between each stage. 

In stage one of a mesothelioma diagnosis, a patient will most likely survive for a median of 22.2 months. In stage 2, the patient will likely live for 20 months. In stage 3, the patient’s median survival time is 17.9. A patient in stage 4 will likely live for another 14.9 months, based on the median survival time. 

Treatment of Mesothelioma

While mesothelioma is often seen as a death sentence, many patients who have accepted multimodal treatment see better survival rates and quality of life.

The impact of a treatment in relation to a patient’s survival will vary, though, depending on the individual diagnosed with mesothelioma. 

There are standard chemotherapy and radiation treatments that can be used for mesothelioma, and in certain cases, you may be able to eradicate cancer with surgery. 

The Ochsner Journal states, “treatment for early-stage disease with surgery and radiation is potentially curative, but many patients either are too ill to undergo aggressive surgery or present with advanced disease.”

Battling Mesothelioma in the Future

We can only hope that more countries will ban asbestos to reduce the number of cases of mesothelioma globally and try to enforce an effective ban in America. This is something that our legislators have continually failed to do throughout the 20th century. 

We need to find a way to effectively battle the number of mesothelioma cases in the United States, whether it be from legislation or the ethical business practice of not including such materials in the construction and manufacturing of American businesses and buildings. 

As asbestos has been used less and less in America, we have seen that the change is possible, because cases of mesothelioma have dropped dramatically since the cancer has been classified. 

We can only look to the future and hope that one day we will be able to find a cure for mesothelioma.