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Understanding mesothelioma’s latency period

On Behalf of | Sep 21, 2022 | Workplace Illness |

Many families are devastated by mesothelioma, which is a terrible disease. With the disease, asbestos fibers get stuck in the lining of the lungs, which can lead to cancer. Tragically, though, mesothelioma usually isn’t caught until it’s in its advanced stages, which means that many sufferers don’t catch the disease until it’s too late.

Why does it take so long to detect mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a slow-growing disease. In fact, the latency period, meaning the time between exposure to asbestos and the diagnosis of mesothelioma, can be as long as 50 years. Even those who catch the condition relatively quickly may not do so until 10 years or so after exposure. For most people, though, it takes decades for the disease to be caught and properly diagnosed.

Medical experts don’t know for sure why mesothelioma takes so long to develop, but it’s likely related to the amount of inflammation caused by asbestos fibers in the lungs’ linings and the rate at which the body responds and grows cancerous cells.

But there may be other contributing factors to the latency period. For example, exposure to a higher amount of asbestos may reduce the latency period, and so, too, may long-term exposure to asbestos. Therefore, those who worked for an asbestos company and those who worked in an environment where asbestos-containing products were frequently used are at a higher risk of having a shorter latency period. Those who performed their job duties in enclosed spaces and in areas with poor ventilation also may have suffered more intense exposure to asbestos, which means that their latency period may be reduced.

Occupations that may affect latency period

Since more intense exposure to asbestos can reduce the mesothelioma latency period, those who worked in certain industries are at an increased risk of more aggressive growth of these cancerous cells. For example, those who worked in shipyards where asbestos was frequently used for its fire-retardant properties, construction workers, plumbers, steel workers, oil and gas refiners, and those who worked with asbestos-containing insulation are at an increased risk of a shorter latency period.

But even those who didn’t work directly with asbestos can end up developing mesothelioma. This is because some people develop mesothelioma after suffering secondhand exposure. This can occur when asbestos fibers are brought home on the clothing of a person who worked in a profession where exposure to asbestos was common. Secondhand exposure is less intense, which means that the latency period can be much longer.

Other factors contributing to the latency period

There may be other factors that contribute to one’s mesothelioma latency period. For example, women tend to have slightly longer latency periods than men, and individuals who were exposed to mesothelioma at a younger age tend to have longer latency periods than those who were exposed at an older age. The specific type of mesothelioma can affect the latency period, too, as some forms of the cancer are much more aggressive than others.

Consider legal action to offset your damages

 Mesothelioma is devastating. Securing medical treatment can be expensive, and the disease can lead to a lot of pain and suffering, mental anguish, and the loss of enjoyment of life. In the midst of all of that, you might be worried about how you’re going to take care of your family in the long-term.

One of the best ways to offset these damages is to take legal action. This can be a complicated process, though, so you may want to consider speaking with an experienced legal professional to learn more about your options and how best to pursue the compensation that you deserve.