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Occupational and Environmental Exposure to Asbestos Reduces Longevity in Patients

Published: February 2, 2024

Mesothelioma is a hard cancer to treat that is mainly caused by asbestos. People with this cancer typically do not live very long after diagnosis, but some people live longer than expected. A study recently published in the journal Toxics looked at people with mesothelioma and asbestos-caused lung cancer. All patients were around asbestos between 2009 and 2021. The study found that people exposed to asbestos while working lived for shorter periods of time and had lower chances of surviving longer. This is similar to people exposed to asbestos in the environment. It was found that the longer someone was exposed to asbestos and the closer the person was to asbestos, the less time that the person lived with either mesothelioma or lung cancer. The riskiest work activity was making products with asbestos.

Asbestos was a popular building material because it is strong, cheap, and resistant to heat. The problem though, is that asbestos is harmful to human health. People exposed to asbestos are at risk of developing mesothelioma and lung cancer.

In 2019, 35,000 people died from mesothelioma globally. It is also estimated that 180,000 people die every year due to asbestos-related lung cancer. Both cancers are very hard to survive. Once diagnosed with mesothelioma, there is less than a five percent chance of living five years after diagnosis. According to experts, there are different reasons affecting the length of people’s lives living with asbestos-linked cancers. Factors can include age, lifestyle choices (smoking), and genes. Scientists are trying to figure out who will live longer and who will die sooner because of these cancers.

One important factor in survival seems to be the way in which someone is exposed to asbestos. Some studies showed that industries that had people making products with asbestos in them had more mesothelioma cases. It was also found that people exposed to asbestos at their occupation lived for shorter periods of time.

There could have been limitations to the study. Researchers did not look at how long or how often someone was exposed to asbestos or if someone exposed at work was also exposed from their environment.

This study looked at different types of asbestos exposure and how they cause different cancers and how long people live with the cancers. Once we understand how long someone lives with asbestos related cancers, we can tailor treatments to suit these patients’ needs, improving their quality of life.

Min-Sung Kang et al., “Occupational and Environmental Asbestos Exposure and Survival of Patients with Asbestos-Related Cancer: A Follow-Up Study on Patients with Malignant Mesothelioma and Asbestos-Related Lung Cancer in Korea” Toxics (December 21, 2023). [Link]
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