Study: Later Asbestos Exposure Lowers Risk of Mesothelioma

A recently published French study makes the case that people who are exposed to asbestos later in life have a lower risk of developing mesothelioma than those who are exposed at a younger age.

This report, published in the European Respiratory Journal, may explain why some people develop mesothelioma and similar asbestos-related diseases while others do not.

Mesothelioma, a rare cancer that usually develops in the lining of the lungs, is primarily caused by asbestos exposure. This aggressive and unique disease affects between 2,000 and 3,000 people in the U.S. each year.

The study analyzed control cases of 2,466 males over a 20-year period, from 1987 and 2006. Results showed that the risk of developing pleural mesothelioma was lower for individuals who were first exposed to asbestos after the age of 20, with consideration to adjustment for intensity and the duration of occupational asbestos exposure.

This risk level increased until about 30 years after an individual’s asbestos exposure ended.

The analysis also found that the effect of the duration of asbestos exposure decreased when the age of first exposure increased. So the later the age someone is first exposed to asbestos, the less of an effect the exposure may have.

Researchers gathered this data from separate reports conducted by the French network of cancer registries and the French National Mesothelioma Surveillance Program.

The French study may prove beneficial to mesothelioma patients worldwide and not just those who interacted with asbestos in France.

Asbestos Use in France

The extent of regulations and restrictions on asbestos use and manufacturing vary greatly in Europe. France takes a more proactive stance on exposure than many other developed nations.

In 1996, France first introduced a ban on chrysotile asbestos, one that was issued with some exceptions. Ten years later, the country called on the International Labor Organization to ban asbestos in all countries around the world.

Asbestos is still being mined, manufactured and consumed in many parts of the world, despite its known health hazards. However, some recent events show signs that things may be changing.

The amount of asbestos that was imported into France reached its peak in 1974. Consumption and use continued for subsequent decades.

Some French lawmakers believe that the country’s former delay in banning asbestos may end up contributing to thousands of additional deaths in the future, as asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma can take up to 50 years to become cancerous.

Article Sources

  1. Lacourt, A. et al. (2011). Temporal patterns of occupational asbestos exposure and risk of pleural mesothelioma. Eur Respir J, 39(6), 1304-1312. doi: 10.1183/09031936.00005111
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