What are the risk factors for developing mesothelioma?

Symptoms of mesothelioma may take years to develop, which is why it is important to know if you are at risk of having the disease.

According to The Mesothelioma Center, somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma every year. This heartbreaking disease may take years to develop in people in North Carolina. In fact, symptoms of the disease could wait to arise until 20 to 50 years, the center notes.

Due to the latency associated with mesothelioma, it is imperative for people to understand the risk factors of developing the condition. Here, we break down the people who may be most likely to receive a diagnosis.

Asbestos exposure

Far and away, the biggest threat to people in terms of mesothelioma risk is an exposure to asbestos. However, the Mayo Clinic points out that even people with years of contact with asbestos may not develop mesothelioma, while others with just brief exposure could.

Exposure could mean that someone worked with asbestos or lived in a home with asbestos. Additionally, simply sharing a home with someone who has been exposed to asbestos could put someone at risk.

Exposure to other elements

Asbestos is not the only risk factor. According to the American Cancer Society, exposure to zeolites - which are minerals related to asbestos - has also been linked to mesothelioma. Radiation has also been associated with this type of cancer, though the causation appears to be rare.

Age and gender

Statistics suggest that age and gender may also matter. While there are incidents of mesothelioma in young people, the American Cancer Society states that among people who have mesothelioma in the chest, two out of three are older than 65.

Additionally, men are at a much higher risk than women of developing the disease, as men are more likely to work in industries in which asbestos exposure happens. The Mesothelioma Center notes that men are at 4.6 times the risk of receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis than women.

What to do

Anyone who believes they may be at risk for mesothelioma should connect with a physician immediately, even if no symptoms appear to be present. Based on an assessment, a doctor may check for lumps, order an X-ray or scan or request further testing.

If a diagnosis comes back, patients should consider their legal options in addition to their medical treatment. In many cases, they may be able to file a mesothelioma lawsuit against a former employer, builder or manufacturer for the asbestos exposure that led to the condition. In North Carolina, people have three years from the time they were diagnosed to initiate a claim. In the event that mesothelioma claimed someone's life, survivors have two years from the date of the death to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

Anyone who has concerns about this topic should speak with a personal injury attorney in North Carolina.