Mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer linked to asbestos exposure, is notorious for its prolonged latency period.
This period can span anywhere from 20 to 60 years, making it challenging to associate the disease with past exposure. The slow progression of mesothelioma is influenced by the gradual accumulation of genetic mutations and cellular changes deep within each victim’s body – but 20 to 60 years is still a pretty wide gap.
What causes some people to develop mesothelioma so much faster (or slower) than others?
- The duration and intensity of the asbestos exposure: The length and intensity of someone’s exposure to asbestos can be a factor. People who experience intense or prolonged exposure are more likely to get more asbestos fibers in their bodies than those who are only briefly and lightly exposed.
- The type of asbestos fibers that were around: Asbestos comes in several forms, including chrysotile, amosite, tremolite and crocidolite. Some studies suggest that some fibers are easier to inhale or swallow – which means that they may be more likely to cause cancer than others.
- The victim may have exposure to other carcinogens: Co-exposure to other toxic products, from industrial chemicals to tobacco smoke, may contribute to the variations in the rate at which certain diseases develop.
- Every person has a unique susceptibility and immune response: Genetic factors make some people more predisposed to the effects of asbestos exposure, and people with overactive or underactive immune systems may experience faster cellular changes than those with normal immune systems.
In short, there are a lot of variables involved, which means that it’s never “too soon” nor “too late” to get checked if you develop any of the troubling symptoms of mesothelioma. If you do develop mesothelioma after asbestos exposure, there may be compensation available.