Mesothelioma Latency Period

The latency period of a disease is the time interval between exposure to a causative agent and the manifestation of symptoms of that disease. For example, the latency period of infection with the common cold virus can be between 63 and 72 hours. The sufferer may have been infected Sunday morning but will not experience symptoms until Monday evening or Wednesday morning. Latency periods can range from hours to several decades, and individual differences in exposure lengths and intensity have direct influences on disease manifestation.

Mesothelioma is a cancer caused almost exclusively by asbestos exposure. Due to the lengthy latency periods characteristic of most asbestos illnesses, the patient may be taken aback as to how the asbestos could affect them so many years after initial exposure.

According to most experts, the latency period for mesothelioma ranges from 20 to 50 years after initial exposure to asbestos occurred. People exposed to asbestos from the '50s through the '70s are continuing to be diagnosed with mesothelioma today.

Latency Varies

According to many studies, the length and level of asbestos exposure greatly influences the length of the latency period associated with mesothelioma. Though longer lengths of exposure increase the chance of developing mesothelioma, the cancer has developed after relatively short or mild exposure to asbestos. Women with a history of domestic exposure to asbestos and other family members exposed to asbestos in the home have been shown to develop mesothelioma after relatively long latency periods. Although short-term exposure to asbestos has been shown to cause mesothelioma, the cancer is primarily a consequence of long-term exposure to asbestos.

Mesothelioma Latency Period Study Results

Research on insulation workers suggested this population experienced heavy exposure to asbestos. A study of 400 pleural mesothelioma cases reported returned mean and median latency periods of 48.8 and 51 years, respectively.

Another study of 301 pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma cases in dockyard workers showed a mean latency period of 48.5 years.

In the study conducted on 400 pleural mesothelioma cases, patients who were insulation workers had relatively short latency periods ranging from 28 to 32 years. The mean latency was 29.6, years and the median was 29.0 years. Insulation workers represent a category of workers that were heavily exposed to asbestos. The dockworkers in this study reported latency periods between 25 to 60 years, with a mean of 36.2 years and median of 31.5 years. Shipyard workers had longer latencies of between 14 and 72 years, with a mean of 49.1 years and median of 51.5 years. Seafarers had latencies ranging between 35 and 75 years, with mean of 55.9 years and median of 56.0 years. Dockworkers and seafarers are not exposed to asbestos as extensively.

Taken together, studies have suggested that heavy exposure to asbestos resulted in a shorter latency period.

Early Diagnosis

No one should live in fear that they have mesothelioma and the disease has simply not demonstrated symptoms. Anyone concerned that exposure to asbestos in their life could result in mesothelioma can explore the option of seeking a blood test called Mesomark. The Mesomark test was approved by the FDA in 1007 and measures a biomarker in effort to find mesothelioma in the earliest stages of development. Though the Mesomark test is not readily available, interested people may request information from their doctors.

Concerned people may also undergo regular check-ups and schedule a yearly chest x-ray to check for any signs of mesothelioma.

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