Epidemiology is the study of health events and characteristics within a society, and is one of the main methods of public health research. Epidemiology assists in identifying risk factors for disease, as well as means of preventative medicine. Those observing epidemiology collect and then record statistical data, interpreting the results. This information takes into account the health of an entire population, rather than the individual.
The epidemiological study of malignant mesothelioma has determined that the most prominent causation associated with this form of cancer is exposure to asbestos.
Approximately 2,000 to 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year; of those between 70% and 80% have a history of asbestos exposure usually through occupational means. Historically men were most likely to hold jobs associated with asbestos, making them more prone to mesothelioma than women. Statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control show that between 1999 and 2005, 14,591 men and 3,477 women died of malignant mesothelioma. The same report from the CDC also states that between 1999 and 2005, 17,180 Caucasians, 707 African Americans, and 181 members of other races died of malignant mesothelioma.
Gender and Mesothelioma
The American Cancer Society explains that the risk of mesothelioma increases with age. It is also stated that men are about four times more likely to be diagnosed than women are. However, it is reported that women are more likely to be diagnosed with peritoneal or pericardial mesothelioma. The reasons for this have yet to be fully understood.
The most common type of mesothelioma is malignant pleural mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the lungs. Approximately 60% to 75% of all cases are diagnosed as pleural mesothelioma. This is because asbestos fibers are most likely to be inhaled and then embed themselves in the lining of the lungs, acting as a human carcinogen. Those diagnosed with this form of the disease tend to have a more favorable prognosis and thus longer survival rate than other types of mesothelioma.
The study of statistics and reports stemming from epidemiological research will hopefully lead to better preventative measures concerning mesothelioma. These numbers can also eventually lead to diagnosis of the disease while it is in the earlier stages, leading to a better patient prognosis.