When we hear about a death from malignant mesothelioma, we tend to immediately picture an elderly man – perhaps a laborer or veteran of the U.S. Navy. But mesothelioma recently claimed the life of a 33-year-old woman in the United Kingdom who was exposed to asbestos as a teenager. Rose Wharton was a medical researcher who was described by her family as having been fit and healthy prior to her diagnosis with the rare and fatal form of cancer. A deep dive into her medical history and possible asbestos exposures revealed that her illness was probably a direct result of work she did in Argentina in the year between completing high school and heading off to college.
In trying to determine where Ms. Wharton’s mesothelioma came from, her family told the Oxfordshire coroner that she had helped build a school using asbestos when she was just 18 years old. According to the coroner, Darren Salter, the case was extremely unusual, as in their area the illness is generally only diagnosed in older construction workers. At an inquest into the death, he said, “I don’t think I have seen a case like this,” then continued to say, “Mesothelioma normally affects men working as plumbers or heating engineers for 30 or 40 years, but this is very different from that.” The young woman died just nine months after having been diagnosed, and though Mr. Salter’s opinion was clearly directed towards the family’s stated source, they also indicated that there was no way of knowing exactly where it came from.
Mesothelioma is diagnosed in roughly 3,500 people in the United States each year and roughly 2,600 people in the United Kingdom, and it is feared that despite the fact that the material’s use has been largely discontinued in both countries in the last few decades, more people will continue to be diagnosed as a result of exposures from asbestos already in place, both at home and abroad. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma and you need information about available resources, we can help. Contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net at 1-800-692-8608.