Older adults and women are two main demographics where researchers are seeing an increase in non-occupational mesothelioma diagnoses, according to Paul Demers, director of the Occupational Cancer Research Centre at Ontario Health.

Demers just completed a study, Mesothelioma: Epidemiology and Prognosis, in which he compared 4,000 cases of mesothelioma in British Columbia and Ontario from 1993 to 2017. Most of the cases he reviewed over the 25-year span involved occupational asbestos exposure, but he noted increasing numbers of mesothelioma diagnoses in people who were not exposed to asbestos on the job.

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, a durable, fire-resistant mineral widely used in construction and ship building materials and friction products. Asbestos, a known carcinogen, is now largely banned in Canada — but only restricted in the United States. It can take up to 50 years for patients to present with mesothelioma symptoms. Once diagnosed, prognosis is generally dire, with most people dying within 12 to 24 months.

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