Of all people with intense and prolonged exposure to asbestos, between 2 and 10% develop pleural mesothelioma. Symptoms of mesothelioma usually do not manifest until 20-50 years after exposure to asbestos, which is when tumors have grown and spread. The average life expectancy of patients with mesothelioma is 12 to 22 months. Mesothelioma is quite rare in the United States.
Every year, about 3,000 new cases are diagnosed. The main risk factor for pleural mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. In fact, most cases of pleural mesothelioma have been associated with high levels of exposure to asbestos, usually in the workplace. Mesothelioma statistics show that about 3000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year in the United States.
Cancer occurs most often in men. Pleural mesothelioma is the most common form, about 80-90% of all cases. The average age at diagnosis is between 65 and 74 years. When asbestos breaks down, such as during the extraction process or when removing asbestos insulation, dust can be created.
If the dust is inhaled or swallowed, asbestos fibers will settle in the lungs or stomach, where they can cause irritation that can lead to mesothelioma. Exactly how this happens is not understood. It may take 20 to 60 years or longer for mesothelioma to develop after exposure to asbestos. The exact manner in which exposure to asbestos and other causative agents causes the development of mesothelioma is not well understood.
Some people with heavy exposure to asbestos never develop mesothelioma. Other people with limited exposure to asbestos have developed the disease. According to medical literature, some people have developed mesothelioma after a single exposure to asbestos. There is some evidence that families of people exposed to asbestos are at increased risk of developing mesothelioma.
This is because you can wear asbestos fibers home in your clothes. Family members of people exposed to asbestos at work may also be exposed because workers can carry asbestos fibers home in their clothes. Many people with mesothelioma in the abdomen (peritoneal mesothelioma) have also been exposed to asbestos.