The United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a report last Thursday indicating that the number of mesothelioma cases among younger populations continues to increase, despite the fact that countless efforts have been made to reduce exposure to toxic asbestos.
The report indicates that numbers of deaths related to malignant mesothelioma increased from 2,479 in 1999 to 2,597 in 2015. While those over age 85 saw the largest increase in cases during that time period, as was expected, the report clearly indicated that younger populations continue to be seriously affected.
As a matter of fact, 682 people between the ages of 25 and 44 died of mesothelioma-related problems during those 16 tears.
“Although deaths among persons aged less than 35 years are of concern, we do not have information to understand potential causes,” said Dr. Jacek Mazurek, lead author of the CDC report.
The EPA placed a halt on new uses of most asbestos-containing products in the late 1970s, though the mineral was never banned. As a result, there are many structures that still contain asbestos materials and many other places as well where individuals can encounter the toxin.
“The problem with asbestos exposure is, there are really so many places where one can be exposed,” said Dr. Hedy Kindler, professor of medicine at the University of Chicago and director of the mesothelioma program at that institution.
“This disease remains relevant,” she said, “and it remains a killer of people who, of no fault of their own other than doing their job, were exposed to something that was preventable.”
Another possibility for the consistent number of cases among younger individuals is secondhand exposure. That means these mesothelioma victims were exposed to others who worked with asbestos during its heyday.
For example, someone who, as a young child, had a father, brother, or other relative who worked with asbestos may have been exposed when that relative came home with asbestos on their clothes or on their person.
Because mesothelioma has such a long latency period (sometimes up to 50 years), an individual who was exposed at age 7 might not be diagnosed until age 37 or 47, for example. Chances are the victim may not even recall the exposure and how or where it happened.
Nonetheless, younger individuals who have/had a family member with the disease or a close relative with whom they lived who worked with asbestos should consider being regularly screened for the disease, notes Dr. Kindler.
Though it may be too late for some, she notes, taking precautions is still the best way to avoid asbestos-related diseases.
“Unfortunately, proven approaches do not currently exist to improve outcomes through early detection of malignant mesothelioma,” Mazurek adds. “We have to make sure that people who could have been exposed have adequate protection and are aware of it.”