A 27-year-old female was recently diagnosed with mesothelioma and asbestosis approximately eight and a half years after initial exposure to asbestos. This case is exceptional for many reasons. The first is due to her extremely short latency period, which is usually between 15 and 40 years. The second is because the woman is still alive, 12 years after diagnosis. Mesothelioma patients, even when the disease is caught in its first stage, have an average survival rate of 32 months. That this woman is still alive more than a decade after diagnosis gives hope to many suffering from the disease. A study was authored by researchers from the Baun School of Public Health and Community Medicine.
Asbestos exposure attorneys hope that mesothelioma patients will be inspired by this woman’s experience. Development of asbestos-related illnesses can be devastating and ultimately debilitating, but it is important to remember that not all diagnoses are alike. This woman is in remission, still working, and has completed a successful pregnancy.
Her symptoms included shortness of breath, upper back pain, and loss of appetite. Like most mesothelioma and asbestosis patients, the woman was exposed to asbestos through occupation. She recalled her first exposure in 1989 during intensive renovation/demolition work at her office in an airport. Buildings constructed before 1979 contain large amounts of asbestos that can be disturbed and inhaled by innocent workers and bystanders through renovation and demolition. This is one of the most common and dangerous forms of exposure.
The work continued for approximately 6 years. Co-workers under judicial investigation recalled seeing asbestos wallboard and debris at the site. Her work routine included excessive work hours, sleeping on site and irregular work shifts (approximately 5000 hours of passive, intermittent, exposure to airborne dust). Information was not available on the mix of fibers in the dusts during demolition at her work site. However, a newspaper article in 1989, contemporary with exposure, reported that Dr Joseph Ribak, then chief of occupational medicine of the major national health care provider, specified that her work site was one of several with acoustic ceilings sprayed with asbestos fibers, which are usually approximately 90% chrysotile and 10% amphiobles.
To the best of our knowledge, the seven-year latency period between first exposure and complaints, and 8.5 years (14 months lapsed between symptoms and diagnosis) to diagnosis of mesothelioma is the shortest ever reported in an adult. The finding of asbestosis is a strong confirmation that she had substantial asbestos exposure. The occupational history and the discovery of asbestos facts in conjunction with the histopathologic detection of interstitial fibrosis make the hypothesis for a “spontaneous case” for mesothelioma most unlikely.
A study from Poland reported 16 cases of pleural mesothelioma found among a group exposed from 1987 to 1997. Four of the patients were employed for periods ranging from 3.5 months to five years. Two of the four had latency periods of 11-12 years from onset of occupational exposure. These four patients had occupational and prior residential exposures associated with massive use of commonly available asbestos-cement wastes as road surface material. The Braun School’s report along with that from Poland calls into question the general consensus that latencies for mesothelioma under 10 years are improbable.
An absence of calcified pleural plaques in our patient may imply shorter latency since exposure. Animal experiments with implantation of asbestos or other fibers in the pleura or peritoneum show that the latent period shortens as fiber dose is increased and lengthens as the dose of fiber is reduced. The present report indicates that high prior exposures, particularly at younger ages, may result in shortened induction periods, in keeping with classic observations on increased dose and shortened latency.
Individuals with direct exposures associated with the construction trades are apt to be the most heavily exposed. During pregnancy, the physiological augmentation of exposure to air leads to a greater dust burden into the lungs. As with ionizing radiation, the earlier the age at exposure, the shorter the latency period for asbestos related cancers. Worker cohort studies indicate that earlier age of exposure predicts incremental lifelong adjusted risks for mesothelioma.
Asbestos exposure attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm remind anyone who may have been exposed to asbestos to get regular medical check-ups, and to not ignore symptoms. If you developed an illness due to exposure, contact one of our lung cancer lawyers immediately for a free legal consultation.