Despite the fact that asbestos is the only known cause of malignant mesothelioma, not everyone exposed to it will develop the disease. In fact, research shows that only 8 to 13% of asbestos workers develop mesothelioma. Other factors, such as a person's genes or having had radiation therapy in the past, may make them more likely to develop mesothelioma when exposed to asbestos. The risk of getting cancer increases with each exposure, but there is still no guarantee that someone will develop mesothelioma.
It is important to note that mesotheliomas related to asbestos exposure take a long time to develop. In addition to asbestos exposure, there are a number of risk factors that make certain people more likely to develop this deadly cancer. These include age, genetics, and levels of exposure to asbestos. For example, those who have been exposed to large amounts of asbestos for a long period of time are more likely to develop mesothelioma than those who have had only a single exposure.
Asbestos was used in many products until 1979, when manufacturers of electric hair dryers voluntarily stopped using it in their products. Unfortunately, this means that many Americans were unknowingly exposed to asbestos by manufacturers of products containing it. Demolition workers, drywall removers, asbestos removal workers, firefighters, and automobile workers may also be exposed to asbestos fibers. Epidemics of asbestos diseases have been reported in industrialized countries for many years; data is now being collected documenting an escalation of these diseases in developing countries such as Brazil, Thailand and Egypt.
In addition, thousands of city residents have been diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases, including mesothelioma. When the World Trade Center (WTC) was attacked in 2001, hundreds of tons of asbestos were released into the atmosphere. This put many American workers at an increased risk of exposure to asbestos on a daily basis. Although the tumor mainly affects older men who were occupationally exposed to asbestos in their youth, malignant mesothelioma can also occur in young adults.
It is important to be aware that mesothelioma can also occur without exposure to asbestos fibers; however, in most cases the patient's exposure to asbestos fibers is the cause.The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Hotline and the Asbestos Ombudsman can provide publications on a range of topics related to asbestos exposure control in schools and other buildings.