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June 15, 2012

Changing demographics for mesothelioma diagnoses

by: Vincent L. Greene IV

Malignant mesothelioma is the most serious of all asbestos-related diseases. It is extremely aggressive, often not detected until it has progressed into the advanced stages of cancer and lacks any known cure. Although individual prognoses will vary, the mesothelioma survival rate following diagnosis is between 10 and 11 months according to the American Cancer Association. Mesothelioma is most often diagnosed in men who are more than 60-years-old, but new incidences of mesothelioma diagnoses among younger generations of men and woman have increased in recent years. And although a diagnosis of mesothelioma is devastating at any age, a diagnosis in men or women in their 40s, 30s or even 20s is especially troubling.

A common difficulty for attorneys privileged to represent mesothelioma victims is establishing exposure and product identification evidence in younger patients. Unfortunately, a prerequisite to any asbestos-related claim is the identification of specific sources of asbestos exposure. While mesothelioma plaintiffs whose exposures date to the 1950s or 1960s and occurred primarily through industrial-related employment, such as pipefitters, boilermakers and carpenters often personally recall working with a variety of asbestos-containing products, younger victims frequently lack this firsthand knowledge of their exposures. Personal recollection of exposure to any asbestos-containing product and/or equipment is often a struggle in this demographic. Indeed, while a worker who was occupationally exposed to asbestos in the middle of the twentieth century often has co-workers who are willing and able to attest to a victim’s exposure, younger mesothelioma sufferers frequently lack this source of evidence.

However, such cases are not without hope. It is important for attorneys to obtain thorough work and personal histories from their clients. Those histories must be supplemented with thorough interviews of all family members and friends. The employment and recreational activities of family members may also need to be investigated and victim’s childhood homes, schools and hobbies are often carefully considered. Such cases require more questioning and analysis compared to their counterparts of the pre-OSHA occupational exposure era.

As younger mesothelioma cases continue to arise in future months and years, plaintiffs’ lawyers will continue to find new and effective ways to ferret out the truth of their clients’ exposures and to bring justice for this newer generation of victims.