Understanding the Risk of Mesothelioma in Women
Posted Friday, December 9, 2016, by Cara T. – The Mesothelioma Center
For decades, people have believed only men are diagnosed with mesothelioma. This is not true. While men are three to four times more likely to develop the disease, women are still at risk for malignant mesothelioma resulting from asbestos exposure.
How Are Women Exposed to Asbestos?
Most women with mesothelioma are exposed one of three ways: Secondary exposure, environmental exposure or occupational exposure.
Secondary exposure is the most common method in which women came in contact with the deadly mineral. This type of exposure usually occurs when a friend, family member or loved one brings asbestos fibers home — usually on work clothes. Given the long latency period of mesothelioma, chances are someone was exposed initially to asbestos 20-50 years ago. As a result, people must remember decades of possible exposure points.
Environmental exposure varies from place to place based on what naturally occurring asbestos is present and if there were any mines in the area.
One study explored the effects of environmental exposure on 3,000 women who lived in an Australian asbestos mining town from 1943 and 1992. Results of the study showed that by 2004, malignant pleural mesothelioma had killed 8 percent of those women.
Recently, University of New Caledonia epidemiologist Francine Baumann analyzed the environmental risk of mesothelioma in the United States and its effect on women and young people — not the typical demographic of mesothelioma patients.
Baumann discovered environmental asbestos exposure was significantly shrinking the gender and age gap of diagnosed mesothelioma cases.
Women can also be exposed to asbestos on the job.
Historically, men were primarily employed in occupations that exposed workers to asbestos. But as more women entered the workforce and took on the same factory jobs as men, they too would eventually develop mesothelioma.
Older homes and public buildings, including schools, place all people at risk for asbestos exposure. Many homes and buildings constructed before 1990 were built with asbestos-contaminated products such as ceiling tiles, flooring, and insulation.
As a result, homeowners performing DIY renovations are also at risk for asbestos exposure. People unaware of asbestos in their homes may disturb or damage these materials and release asbestos fibers into the air.
Types of Mesothelioma Found in Women
Women are generally susceptible to the same types of mesothelioma as men.
The most common type for both sexes is pleural mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the lungs. Peritoneal mesothelioma, which forms in the lining of the abdomen known as the peritoneum, is the second most common type in men and women.
On the other hand, well-differentiated papillary mesothelioma (WDPM) usually develops in young women, typically in their 30s, and it does not have a strong connection to asbestos exposure.
Although WDPM mostly forms in the lining of the abdomen, doctors have diagnosed in other areas such as the lining of the lungs. Those diagnosed with this cancer usually have a better prognosis than average mesothelioma patients. WDPM patients have life expectancies ranging from three years to more than 10 years.
For far too long, mesothelioma has been considered a man’s disease, but this is far from the truth.
Mesothelioma does not discriminate on the basis of sex or gender. It’s important for all people to be aware of the dangers of asbestos and to speak with their physician if they notice any possible signs or symptoms of the disease.
Early diagnosis can make a life-saving difference.