Italy is one of the many countries in the world that is suffering an epidemic of malignant mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases, and as a result, researchers from that country are working diligently to understand how the disease manifests itself, and where the greatest risks lie. A recently published study conducted by the Italian Workers’ Compensation Authority in Rome has revealed a startling fact about the risk of dying from mesothelioma: they found that for pleural mesothelioma, the fatality risk rises and then eventually falls decades after exposure to asbestos, but that the risk of peritoneal mesothelioma remains the same, no matter how much time passes.
Study focuses on asbestos deaths among asbestos cement workers
The result of the mesothelioma study were published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine last May. The authors made their determination based on a study that they conducted of asbestos cement workers in Bari, Italy, a contaminated area that has long been classified as a site of national concern. The asbestos cement plant operated in the area from 1933 until 1985, and employed approximately 417 workers.
In looking at the health history of those workers and their risk of dying from mesothelioma, the researchers found that some died of mesothelioma while others died of lung cancer. In looking specifically at those whose deaths had been blamed on asbestos-related cancers, they break down the deaths by how long the workers had been exposed to asbestos, how long it had been since that exposure, and the type of asbestos-related cancer each succumbed to.
Differences between risk of types of mesothelioma
Based strictly on cumulative exposure to the carcinogenic material, they found that the number of people who died of pleural mesothelioma and lung cancer increased and then decreased as exposure increased, while that was not the case among those who died of peritoneal mesothelioma: those numbers just continued to climb with higher cumulative asbestos exposure. The group then looked at the amount of time that went by between workers’ last asbestos exposure and their risk of death, and found that for those who died of pleural mesothelioma, the risk peaked between 20 and 29 years following exposure. After that point, the risk fell.
In looking then at how the risk of peritoneal mesothelioma was affected by the passage of time, the researchers found that risk hit its peak at 20 years after exposure and then remained at that level, with no decrease. The same was true for lung cancer. This is particularly important in light of the fact that roughly 20% of the mesothelioma diagnoses in the United States involve peritoneal mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the abdominal cavity.
If you have been diagnosed with either peritoneal or pleural mesothelioma, knowledge about your risk needs to be set aside over concerns about how best to treat your disease. For access to important resources, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net at 1-800-692-8608.