Cancer is one of the primitive killers in today’s society. We all know someone who has battled it, and we all know someone who has lost that battle. About 300 of every 100,000 Americans develop cancer each year, which means the U.S. has the seventh highest cancer rate in the world. The most common types of cancer are:
- Skin Cancer (over 1,000,000 people diagnosed annually)
- Lung Cancer (claims the lives of over 160,000 people every year)
- Breast Cancer (over 200,000 women and 2,000 men diagnosed every year)
- Prostate Cancer (over 200,000 people diagnosed annually)
- Colon Cancer (over 150,000 new cases every year)
Bladder cancer, kidney cancer, and leukemia are the other cancers we most prominently see. Another form of cancer that is unfortunately on the rise is mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a semi-rare form of cancer, with only about 2,000 new cases diagnosed in the United States each year — but its incidence is increasing worldwide. What makes mesothelioma different from a lot of other cancers is the disease is related to on-the-job exposure to asbestos, and could be prevented through awareness and protective measures at work. That said, in many cases, mesothelioma does not develop until decades after asbestos exposure occurs, and many people that are diagnosed today were exposed to asbestos years ago. The use of asbestos sharply declined in the late 1970s when it became evident that asbestos posed a threat to human health and safety. However, even though the use of asbestos has declined, the number of people diagnosed with mesothelioma goes up every year. The mesothelioma death rate is much higher among men. From 1999 to 2010, the age-adjusted death rate for men was 24.6 deaths per million, compared with 4.5 deaths per million for women.
Asbestos was used in thousands of commercial products and industrial capacities and those working with the material in these industries are the ones who may be at risk of harmful exposure. Industries in which asbestos use was particularly prevalent include shipbuilding, power plants, and construction. Workers employed in these industries prior to 1980 likely encountered asbestos products. Many of the workers who have since been diagnosed with mesothelioma filed lawsuits that resulted in big settlements. It became such a common practice that attorneys began opening mesothelioma law firms to only focus these specific cases.
While asbestos exposure is hazardous, not all asbestos products are inherently hazardous. Because asbestos must be inhaled to be a health risk, only loose asbestos fibers or those in the air supply area true hazard.
Like previously mentioned, the sharp decline in use asbestos hasn’t eliminated the cancer. There are still measures and precautions that need to be taken in order to prevent becoming a mesothelioma victim. The most important thing you can do to prevent it is to use appropriate precautions if you are exposed to asbestos at work. First of all, protective gear should be worn any time the presence of asbestos is suspected. Secondly, any clothes worn while working with asbestos should be left at the site. Wearing asbestos-covered clothes outside the work area could subject others to unwanted exposure. When dealing with asbestos, proper abatement methods should also be followed to ensure complete safety.
You also need to make sure preventative measures are taken at home. Most people don’t encounter asbestos just by walking around their home even if there is asbestos inside. Asbestos exposure usually occurs during home renovation projects because do-it-yourself projects can catch non-professionals off guard. Anyone performing any type of serious renovation work on a home built prior to 1980 should always wear protective gear.
Some of the in-home items that may contain asbestos include:
- Attic insulation
- Roof shingles and tar
- Drywall and drywall glue
- Floor tiles
- Popcorn ceilings
- Joint compounds
- Wrapping on pipes and electrical wires
If you have been exposed to asbestos, you may want to consider CT screening for lung cancer. At this time, recommendations for screening typically include only those people aged 55 to 74 with a 30 pack-year history of smoking. Yet studies show that some people who have been exposed to asbestos may be at an even higher risk of developing lung cancer than heavy smokers. If you’ve been exposed to asbestos make sure to talk to your doctor about lung cancer screening.
You can help raise awareness for mesothelioma by donating your time and money to the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation or the International Mesothelioma Program. The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation is a non-profit national organization dedicated to lobbying for and funding mesothelioma research initiatives. In addition to funding initiatives and research projects, MARF also seeks to connect patients with cancer specialists and mesothelioma programs at the nation’s leading cancer centers. The International Mesothelioma Program is a joint initiative of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, and Harvard University School of Medicine. The IMP is at the forefront of all leading mesothelioma treatment research and practice.
For more information on mesothelioma, take a look at the infographic below (via Simmons Law Firm).