Mesothelioma can be diagnosed in people of any age and gender. However, the majority of cases are seen in older males usually in their mid 60s. The American Cancer Society reports that most people diagnosed with mesothelioma are 65 or older, with age ranges typically seen between 50 and 70 years old. The reason for diagnosis at such a late age is because of the slow stage progression of mesothelioma. Because of the disease’s long latency period, symptoms do not usually present until the cancer is in the later stages. Mesothelioma generally has latency periods of anywhere from 20 to 50 years. The ACS also reports that men are about four times more likely than women to be diagnosed.
While malignant mesothelioma most typically results from the exposure to asbestos, geneology can also play a major role in the development of the disease. If cancer runs within a person’s family, this increases the chance of mesothelioma occurring when that same person has been exposed. Another factor is the degree of intensity of exposure to asbestos, higher intensities and a longer duration of exposure typically coincide with a higher risk of being diagnosed with mesothelioma. There is a synergistic effect between smoking tobacco products and asbestos exposure, therefore those who smoke and have been exposed to asbestos are more likely than those exposed who do not smoke to develop mesothelioma.
Although the disease has been predominantly gender specific, cases of women contracting mesothelioma are becoming more common. A case dating back to September 11, 2001 involves a female first responder that died within five years from her initial exposure. The high intensity of asbestos fiber exposure during that one day was strong enough for considerable advancement of the latency period.