‘Third wave’ of asbestos victims being diagnosed with mesothelioma

19 Jun 2013 by under News, Research/Treatment

carpenter 100x100 Third wave of asbestos victims being diagnosed with mesotheliomaIn Australia, which has the highest per capital rate of in the world, doctors and researchers are seeing a new wave of younger people diagnosed. They call these patients the or the “bystander wave.”

Mesothelioma is a deadly form of cancer that typically affects the lining of the lungs or abdomen, and it is caused exclusively by exposure to asbestos. The “first wave” of victims were those who worked in mines. In Australia, this was primarily the Wittenoom blue asbestos mine in Pilbara. The second wave was made up of people who worked with asbestos products, usually in factories, shipyards, or as builders and electricians.

The “third wave” of asbestos victims, also called “bystanders,” were just that – simply people who came into contact with people who had asbestos on their clothes, such as family members of asbestos workers, or those who unknowingly came into contact with asbestos through activities such as home renovations.

According to a report in the Brisbane Times, Australia stopped mining asbestos in 1983 and banned it from building products in 2004, for years it was included in upwards of 3,000 products ranging from insulation to brake linings. It is estimated that asbestos was widely used in Australian buildings between 1945 and 1980.

As a result of this “bystander” exposure, medical experts expect to see new cases continue to rise until at least 2020. Even people with only distant or very brief exposure to asbestos 30 or 40 years ago are being diagnosed now.

Mesothelioma is difficult to diagnose. Jane Krsevan, now 47, told to the Brisbane Times she began experiencing problems with fluid on her lungs when she was 34. She chalked it up to her smoking habit and immediately quit. But her symptoms only got worse. She developed stabbing back pain, which doctors thought was possibly a pulled muscle.

As her health continued to deteriorate, finally when she mentioned to a doctor that her father was a builder whom she had watched make insulation boxes for hot water heaters –40 years ago – he put the puzzle pieces together. Two years ago she was diagnosed with mesothelioma. She underwent a pleural pneumonectomy, removing one lung and part of her diaphragm.

Australia’s Asbestos Diseases Research Institute (ADRI) maintains a database of mesothelioma patients. They report the number of cases with no occupational exposure is increasing.

The situation is much the same in the United States, Great Britain, Italy, and other areas of the world. Wherever asbestos has been, death has followed. Despite this grim reality, asbestos is still mined in some countries and is still used regularly in countries such as India. In many places – including the United States – asbestos is still not completely banned.

On a hopeful note, in June Australia’s ADRI researchers presented information to the American Society of Clinical Oncologists meeting in Chicago about a new treatment for mesothelioma. The details have not yet been made public, but the ADRI says clinical trials may begin as soon as later this year.

Source: Brisbane Times

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