Study Links Childhood Asbestos Exposure to Early Mesothelioma

Malignant mesothelioma is a rare and deadly form of cancer that is most frequently diagnosed in the elderly. It is exceptionally rare for it to be found in people who are under the age of 50, yet a recent study conducted at the Istituto Superiore di Sanità found that in every year between 2003 and 2016, roughly 35 Italians under the age of 50 died of the disease. Upon closer analysis, the study found that those who succumbed to the disease had grown up in the Northern parts of the country, where asbestos was in common industrial use. 

Malignant Mesothelioma Under the Age of 50 Likely Caused by Childhood Exposure

The researchers from the renowned Italian institute identified 487 citizens who had died of malignant mesothelioma under the age of fifty during that 13-year time period. In trying to determine why so many had developed the rare disease at such a young age, they found that the largest proportion of them came from the area where asbestos had been in common use during their youth.

Malignant mesothelioma is thought of as an occupational disease because most of its victims are workers whose jobs expose them to asbestos. But the nature of the fiber means that when it is disturbed or manipulated, it is spread into the environment where it can easily be inhaled. This is true all over the world: People who lived near asbestos companies or mines have been at greater risk for inhaling or ingesting asbestos fibers and eventually developing asbestos-related diseases.

Children in Asbestos-Contaminated Area at High Risk for Eventual Mesothelioma Diagnosis

In Northern Italy, where the majority of the youthful mesothelioma victims were raised, there were many industries that used the material. According to the report issued by the scientists, “Exceeding SMRs (standardized mortality ratios) were found in 10 municipalities where former asbestos-cement plants, shipyards, and a quarry contaminated by fluoro-edenite fibres were present.” As a result of this observation, the team concluded that those diagnosed with the disease at such a young age were likely exposed to the toxic material when they were children. They also believe that they can take the information about youthful mesothelioma incidents and extrapolate the number of children who were exposed to mesothelioma from those sources.

Asbestos exposure can happen at all ages and under many circumstances, and that exposure can always lead to inhalation of fibers and eventual development of mesothelioma. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with this rare and deadly disease and you need help identifying its source, the Patient Advocates at can help. Contact us today at  1-800-692-8608.

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer is the head writer of our news blog. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Terri believes that knowledge is power and she is committed to sharing news about the impact of mesothelioma, the latest research and medical breakthroughs, and victims’ stories.

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