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New study documents life-long risk of contracting mesothelioma

Most people in North Carolina are aware that the causal relationship between exposure to asbestos and the lung cancer known as mesothelioma has long been a demonstrated medical fact. However, no one could say whether the risk of contracting mesothelioma lessens or perhaps disappears with the passage of time. This question has now been answered: A recent medical study has now shown that once a person is exposed to asbestos fibers, the risk of contracting mesothelioma never declines or disappears.

The study comprised eight groups of patients in countries ranging from Australia to Italy, and it looked at both occupational and second hand exposure to asbestos. The lead author of the study said that the study shows that even after the passage of 45 years from the last exposure, there is still risk for developing the disease.

Asbestos fibers do their sinister work by lodging in the protective lining in the lungs. The fibers irritate the mesothelial cells in the lining, thereby starting the metabolic process that can ultimately lead to development of the disease itself. The process can take between 20 to 40 years before mesothelioma can be diagnosed. This study found that 44 percent of pleural mesothelioma cases and 54 percent of peritoneal mesothelioma were diagnosed at least 40 years after a first exposure.

The long latency period for mesothelioma means that persons who were exposed to asbestos fibers in the 1960s and 1970s may be experiencing symptoms of the disease for the first time. People who believe they have mesothelioma symptoms should first consult a physician. If mesothelioma is diagnosed, they should then contact an attorney with experience in handling claims for injuries caused by asbestos exposure. The American legal system has several different means of affording compensation to persons suffering from mesothelioma, but legal assistance is needed to recover on such claims.

Source: thorax.bmj.com, "Mesothelioma risk after 40 years since first exposure to asbestos: a pooled analysis," Dr. Alison Reid, May 19, 2014

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