Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that affects mesothelial tissues, which are protective linings found in the chest, cardiac, and lung cavities. Due to the severity of this condition, we have provided the following five facts so that you can educate your friends and family about your illness.

Fact #1 – Asbestos exposure causes mesothelioma.

Asbestos is actually a group of naturally occurring minerals that are designated as fibrous silicates. This material was often used as a fire resistant insulation for pipes and brake linings. When the mineral is broken, it causes it to release fibers into the air. These microscopic fibers are then inhaled or ingested, without the person even being aware that they have been exposed.

Fact #2 – Mesothelioma has the longest latency period of all diseases related to asbestos.

For most people, the symptoms of mesothelioma occur an average of 35 to 40 years after the initial exposure to asbestos. For others, this period can be as short as 10 to 15 years, or as long as 50 years. This variety in latency periods is believed to be due to the length of exposure. Those with shorter periods of exposure typically have the longest delay before symptoms begin to show.

Fact #3 – Those who served in the United States military are the most at-risk group.

Many of those exposed were part of the 4.3 million Americans that were employed by shipyards during World War II and the Korean War. Other areas in which exposure to asbestos was high were on ships and in military barracks. Those with homes that were built before 1970 are also at risk due to the use of products that contained asbestos during the construction process.

As far as homes are concerned, it is believed that there are more than 3,000 household products and building materials used that contain asbestos. This alarming number means that many could be exposed right now, without even being aware of it.

Fact #4 – Asbestos is still in widespread use in other countries.

A better understanding of the dangers of asbestos in the US has led to limited use of the mineral. However, this is not the case in other countries. China, Russia, Canada, Kazakhstan, and Brazil are the highest producers of asbestos, with China leading the way with more than 625,000 metric tons of it being consumed in 2007. Additionally, the use of the mineral in India has increased by more than 80% since 2004.

Fact #5 – Exposure of any kind poses a health risk.

All exposure to materials that contain asbestos is dangerous. Even small amounts of the inhaled fibers can have serious health effects later in life, including mesothelioma. The only way to avoid this type of cancer is to ensure that you are aware of your surroundings, and minimize any potential exposure. The high risk associated with asbestos is alarming, and the fact that this is a naturally occurring substance that has been discovered throughout the country and the world makes it even more so.

While a diagnosis of mesothelioma is frightening, and often has a dire prognosis, there is still hope for those who have to deal with this disease. Considerable research is ongoing into the diagnosis and treatment, and this has already led to more effective methods for those who have been exposed to asbestos. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, your best line of defense is to seek out a medical specialist in the field while contacting an attorney to find out more about your rights. There are also plenty of support groups available that can be a major help in understanding and dealing with this illness.

The content of this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you would like a referral to a qualified health provider, please ask one of our staff members.