Historically, malignant mesothelioma cancer has affected older men who were exposed to asbestos in construction, mining, shipping, and similar labor-intensive professions. However, over time, more and more women have been diagnosed with the condition. Now women account for approximately 20% to 25% of all new cases.
Women develop mesothelioma through direct exposure to asbestos, just as men do. However, throughout time, fewer women than men have worked in jobs that involve asbestos. Therefore, men have been subject to the disease more often. Women may develop mesothelioma through other means, including secondhand and environmental exposure to asbestos.
Pleural mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the lungs, is the most common form of mesothelioma in both women and men. In total, it accounts for upwards of 75% of all new cases. However, whereas men are five times more likely to develop pleural mesothelioma than the second leading form, peritoneal mesothelioma, women are only two times more likely to do the same.
Women and men have similar treatment options: chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery. However, women who are diagnosed with mesothelioma have a slightly better prognosis than men. Statistically, women respond better to treatment and have longer survival times. This is due, in part, to the fact that women are generally diagnosed at a younger age than men.
The Role of an Asbestos Attorney
Generally, women are at a legal disadvantage in asbestos cases because it’s difficult to pinpoint cause and effect. Whereas mesothelioma in men can generally be traced back to workplace exposure, women are less likely to have worked in these male-dominated occupations.
That said, women have been exposed directly to asbestos on the job. For example, schoolteachers have come into contact with the mineral in school buildings. Women may also have been exposed to asbestos through environmental factors, such as living in a mining town, and through secondary contact with a loved one.