Mesothelioma Latency Period Can Be As Little As 20 Years

The term latency period is used to describe the period of time between exposure to a potential disease-causing agent and the time the disease becomes apparent. According to most experts, in the case of mesothelioma the latency period ranges from 20 to 50 years after initial exposure to asbestos occurred, though there have been instances […]

The term latency period is used to describe the period of time between exposure to a potential disease-causing agent and the time the disease becomes apparent. According to most experts, in the case of mesothelioma the latency period ranges from 20 to 50 years after initial exposure to asbestos occurred, though there have been instances when the time period was shorter or longer.

Due to the long latency period associated with the cancer, those exposed to asbestos during the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s are beginning to demonstrate mesothelioma symptoms today, decades after they were exposed to asbestos.

Living During the Latency Period

While no one should spend their days dwelling on the fact that they could someday develop an asbestos-related disease, there are some things that can be done to aid in early diagnosis if mesothelioma is indeed present.

The most notable development in the last few years is the mesothelioma blood test known as Mesomark. Approved by the FDA in 2007, this simple test measures a particular cancer biomarker and can catch mesothelioma in the early stages of development. The blood test is not available everywhere but if you wish to undergo testing, asking your doctor where you may take advantage of the test may aid in early detection.

Those exposed to asbestos run the risk of developing asbestosis or mesothelioma and may wish to schedule yearly chest X-rays to check for any suspicious signs of disease. If a doctor determines there may be a concern after the X-ray, further imaging tests such as CT scans or MRIs may be recommended. A biopsy may also be requested to test for the presence of cancerous cells.

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Varying Latency Periods

A number of studies have been conducted on the specifics of the length of latency periods among those exposed to asbestos.

In the case of mesothelioma, evidence has indicated that high exposure for short periods of time might be more damaging than low exposure for many years. For example, Deborah Reeve, a New York City paramedic and first responder at the site of the World Trade Center attacks in 2001, passed away from mesothelioma in 2006, just five years after her exposure to asbestos from the events on September 11. Deborah had symptoms of the disease as early as 2003 and was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2004.

Numerous studies on asbestosis agree that more than 90 percent of individuals who were exposed to asbestos for 40 years or more will develop the disease. For those who worked with the toxic mineral for 20-30 years, the rate is about 75 percent. Those who experienced 10-19 years of exposure have an incidence level of about 10 to 15 percent. These numbers may also vary according to the level of asbestos someone is exposed to on a daily basis.

For example, shipbuilders of the mid-20th century were nearly always surrounded by asbestos as were many construction workers. Those groups have tended to develop asbestosis sooner than those who worked in other industries where the levels may not have been as high.

Sources:

  1. http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/MalignantMesothelioma/DetailedGuide/malignant-mesothelioma-diagnosed
  2. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Sites-Types/mesothelioma
  3. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/asbestos
 

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