It’s long been known that asbestos is the cause of malignant mesothelioma: the carcinogenic material has been named as the primary source of several diseases. In the case of the rare and deadly form of cancer, it is believed that the mineral’s fibers create genetic changes in the cells in which it becomes embedded. These changes eventually lead to mutations that grow into cancerous tumors. Now a new collaborative study between a team of American researchers and Italian researchers has raised an interesting piece into our current understanding of the development of mesothelioma: they suggest that in addition to causing the cancer itself, the amount of material may actually impact the speed at which the disease progresses through the body.
One of the most interesting questions that has been asked about mesothelioma revolves around who gets the disease, and when. Though malignant mesothelioma is most frequently diagnosed in older people who worked with asbestos for years, it has also been found in younger victims whose exposure to asbestos was brief, but in extremely high concentrations, such as those who were exposed following the terrorist attacks of September 11. The researchers in the latest study, who come from Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina and Milan’s National Tumor Institute, looked at this specific question. They examined the medical records and case histories of almost 600 people diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma and examined the physical amount of asbestos that had been found in their lung tissue, as well as other epidemiological factors such as type of tumor, exposure history, and gender. Writing in the journal Carcinogenesis, first author Tommaso A. Dragani said, “For both measures of asbestos in lung tissue, younger age at diagnosis was associated with higher internal measures of exposure to asbestos. None of the other variables considered was associated with age at diagnosis.”
Though it was previously understood that the risk of a person exposed to asbestos early in their life eventually being diagnosed with mesothelioma increases as they get older, the results of this study represent news. The greater the amount of asbestos a person is exposed to, the faster it spreads and grows. “Our finding that tumors become clinically apparent at a younger age in heavily exposed subjects suggests that asbestos is involved not only in malignant mesothelioma tumor initiation but, somehow, also in the progression of the disease,” concludes the report summary.
No matter if your exposure to asbestos came when you were an adult or a child, in small doses or in heavy exposure, once you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma you need all the help and support you can get. For information on the resources available to you, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net today at 1-800-692-8608.