Asbestos in the Marines Pleural mesothelioma is a rare lung cancer that is primarily brought on through exposure to asbestos. Many people who are continuously exposed to asbestos are at risk of developing this cancer. Unfortunately, Marine veterans may be at a significantly higher risk than other individuals for developing this disease. Because the military used an exorbitant amount of asbestos-filled materials in the past, exposure was unavoidable for Marine personnel. Exposure From the 1940s to the 1970s, the military used asbestos in a number of different situations. Marine personnel may have experienced moderate levels of exposure to asbestos in their barracks. Materials consisting of asbestos may have been used to build the sleeping quarters on the bases. Because any disruption to these materials can cause asbestos fibers to be easily dislodged from their original position, the fibers can become suspended in the air. Those suspended, airborne particles then can become inhaled and implanted in the lungs. Marine personnel may have been additionally exposed to asbestos because of their participation with the Navy on specific missions. Navy ships and shipyards were filled with asbestos-laden materials because ships and other transportation vessels were required to have fireproof construction. Because asbestos is a mineral with heat-resistant qualities, it was commonly used in the fireproofing process. Marines were often exposed to asbestos during voyages on the naval ships. These vessels were used during times of conflict, and Marine personnel spent a great deal of time being exposed to the materials containing asbestos. Outcomes Pleural mesothelioma can remain dormant for a long period without symptoms. Latent cancers such as this develop after decades, and many veterans are diagnosed in very advanced stages of the disease. Marine veterans who have been exposed to asbestos in the past may begin to experience symptoms several decades later. In many cases, the dormant stage of this type of cancer can range from 20 to 50 years. However, even those individuals who have been exposed to asbestos only once can develop pleural mesothelioma years later. The symptoms of mesothelioma can be similar to other conditions, so doctors may have difficulty making an immediate diagnosis. Individuals who have been diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in a later stage may have a short life expectancy. There are limited choices for treatment when the cancer is detected after it has rapidly progressed. Anyone who has been exposed to asbestos should be routinely checked by a physician.