Malignant mesothelioma is an extremely uncommon form of cancer, and the cancer has been almost exclusively determined to be related to the inhalation of asbestos particles. Therefore, if there has been no exposure to asbestos materials, it is unlikely that a person will develop mesothelioma. The largest problem in relation to asbestos inhalation is that many people do not know that they have been exposed.
Obviously, individuals who have worked with asbestos materials are at greater risk of developing mesothelioma than those who may have been exposed to the material by simply being inside of a building that contained asbestos.
In the United States alone, there are typically a few thousand new cases diagnosed each year. Around the world, there are thousands of more cases uncovered on a yearly basis. Some of the known facts about mesothelioma are that men are quite a bit more likely to develop the disease than woman, however, this may be due to the fact that men were more likely to be the ones working with asbestos materials and in the fields of construction and manufacturing when asbestos was a widely used product.
In addition, most new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in individuals who are over the age of 65. Again, this may be due to the fact that these individuals were the ones primarily working with asbestos materials several decades ago, and the disease is just now appearing. In reality, mesothelioma can occur and be diagnosed in a person of any age.
Based on research and statistics of those who have developed mesothelioma, it is apparent that an exposure to asbestos particles for just one or two month can develop into full blown mesothelioma three or four decades later. Recent cases of mesothelioma are primarily in people who were originally exposed to asbestos in the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. By the 1980s, there were more regulations and safety precautions in place, so exposure from the 1980s to the present has been minimized – at least in the United States.
There is no way to determine for certain how many new cases of mesothelioma will be diagnosed on a yearly basis due to the fact that exposure to asbestos took place several decades ago. Mesothelioma can lay dormant in a person's body for years and years without causing any problems. However, if and when it finally does appear, it is extremely aggressive and difficult to treat. Often, the cancer spreads so quickly that once it is diagnosed, it is hard to get the cancer under control.
The number of mesothelioma cases has increased over the past 20 years, and the number of cases may drop sometime in the future as the unprotected exposure to asbestos particles around the world is curbed. However, there will always be cases in which exposure to asbestos is unavoidable, such as during and after the collapse of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.