Mesothelioma symptoms typically take 15 to 50 years after exposure to asbestos to appear. As such, mesothelioma is generally regarded as an adult disease. But pediatric mesothelioma also exists, albeit very rarely compared to its adult counterpart, and researchers are making progress to better understand how this disease can affect children, adolescents and young adults.

What is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, a fibrous fire-resistant mineral used in construction and shipbuilding materials and friction products, such as brake linings for trains and cars.

Mesothelioma tumors develop in the mesothelium, the lining of certain internal organs. About 75% of mesothelioma cases are pleural mesothelioma that affects the lungs and chest wall. Most of the remaining cases are peritoneal mesotheliomas that develop in the peritoneum, which lines the inside of the abdomen and many of the abdominal organs. Two rarer forms of mesothelioma are pericardial, which affect the lining of the heart, and tunica vaginalis, which lines the testicles.

About 2,500 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma every year in the United States. Because the disease is usually linked to industrial operations where asbestos is used, it occurs more often in men. The disease can also be caused by second-hand exposure to asbestos, such as bringing asbestos fibers into the home on work clothes, and by exposure to talcum used for personal hygiene, baby powders, and in some cosmetics. The average age of those diagnosed is 69.

While there are some treatments for mesothelioma, most patients survive just one to two years after diagnosis.

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