Many people view mesothelioma as a prevalent cancer among men. This is often due to the high risk of occupational exposure in industrial jobs or the military, as we have discussed in previous blog posts. And in these past decades, when there was a higher risk of exposure, men often outnumbered women in the workforce, particularly in the jobs with the highest risk of exposure.
While men still make up the most of new cases of mesothelioma, recent reports indicate that women now make up nearly 25% of new cases.
What causes mesothelioma in women?
As with men, the only known cause of mesothelioma in women is asbestos exposure. While mesothelioma still affects women less than it does men, the American Cancer Society states that the rate of mesothelioma in women is steady. However, the fact that women now make up a fourth of all new cases is still a large concern for families across Tennessee and the nation.
This information might also lead many women to wonder how they could have been exposed to asbestos. Maybe women faced a high risk of exposure:
- In the workplace, if they worked in industrial positions, older schools or older buildings
- In the home, especially if they lived in older houses (which may have had asbestos tiles in the kitchen floor, asbestos “popcorn” ceilings, or asbestos siding or roofing)
- From commercial products, especially makeup or other talc products (like talc-based baby powder)
- From secondary exposure through a spouse or loved one exposed to asbestos at work and who then came home with the asbestos on their clothes and body.
The risk factors of exposure generally remain the same, regardless of gender. So, what led to the focus on men suffering mesothelioma? There are many reasons for that focus, but it was likely the result of the latency period. Mesothelioma can take anywhere from 20 to 60 years to develop.
Therefore, the years that men outnumbered women in the workforce likely explain the large influx of cases in men at first.
The risk now? Beware of a misdiagnosis
There are new research efforts into how women diagnosed with mesothelioma were exposed to asbestos and the effects of mesothelioma in women, thus refocusing the concentration on both sexes rather than just men. However, the latency period and the prevalence of the disease in men could lead to a higher rate of initial misdiagnosis in women.
In these cases, it is critical to seek a second opinion.
Women already face a higher risk of getting a misdiagnosis than men. And the past data and pre-conceived notions about mesothelioma might increase that risk.
If you suffer the common symptoms related to mesothelioma and worry about a past asbestos exposure, you must take the necessary steps to ensure you get a proper diagnosis and the treatment you need.