Mesothelioma is a rare and deadly cancer that develops as a result of inhaling asbestos fibers, often on the job. However, an increasing number of younger adults are at risk of developing mesothelioma because they lived in a home with an adult who worked with asbestos and brought the dust home on his or her clothes. Your risks of mesothelioma will depend on a number of factors:
- What kind of asbestos you were exposed to
- How long you worked in that environment
- What level of exposure you suffered
- How long the asbestos fibers were
- Whether you had other risks such as smoking
Among ordinary citizens in the U.S. the risks of developing mesothelioma are higher for those who work or worked in an environment where asbestos is or has been widely used.
Lung cancer risk
Exposure to asbestos, among other things, has a high correlation with lung cancer risk. Whether you develop some form of ordinary lung cancer or you go on to develop the mesothelioma—which is associated specifically with asbestos exposure—your lung cancer risk is worth investigating before you accept a job in an industry known to release pollutants into the air. It pays to educate yourself about asbestos and other pollutants. Unfortunately, even today, some companies are not open about explaining the risks of asbestos or other substances to which your work might expose you.
If you were already involved in an industry that placed you at risk, it's important to find a doctor who understands mesothelioma and other lung cancer risks and who will watch you carefully. Early detection can mean the difference between life and death—and in the case of mesothelioma, between a longer life and an earlier death.
Asbestos risk assessment
Today the most common situations that can lead to increased risks of mesothelioma are from asbestos you can be exposed to during removal of old asbestos products or during demolition of old buildings. It is important that you obtain a professional asbestos risk assessment if you will be involved in such a project. There may be inadequate protection provided—and thus increased risks of mesothelioma—if you don’t know the true levels of exposure.
If you used to work in an industry that used asbestos, it's worth asking whether your employer or the owner of the premises has already had a formal asbestos risk assessment done of the environment where you worked. If not, you may want to request that such an assessment be authorized.