Medical science continues to explore promising avenues of genetic and cell research in their quest to find asbestosis treatments for the incurable asbestosis cancer, malignant mesothelioma.

Despite a notorious resistance to many types of conventional cancer therapies, new studies into curcumin, an antioxidant found in the traditional cooking spice, turmeric, have shown an impact on the break down of mesothelioma cells.

Previous research had found that the human body’s own natural killer (NK) cells can be switched off by the presence of asbestos fibres, leading to cellular inflammation and the eventual development of cancer.

There is an unusually long gestation period of between 15 to 50 years that occurs between first exposure to asbestos and the emergence of mesothelioma or asbestosis symptoms.

The distinctive yellow-coloured turmeric is widely used in Asian cooking and has been used for over 4,000 years in both Indian and Chinese medicine as a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. There is also a tradition of curcumin being used in the treatment of a variety of cancers, digestive and liver problems, skin diseases and to prevent the blood from clotting. However, until the new studies began, the effect on mesothelioma cells was less clearly defined.

Latest research appears to confirm the findings of a 2011 study, which found that curcumin could promote the death of human mesothelioma cells in the lab as well as in mice. An increased curcumin dose appeared to influence the process by which cells naturally break down and recycle themselves.

Life expectancy rates for patients diagnosed with mesothelioma are also affected by a number of individual factors, including the stage the cancer has reached, type of mesothelioma, patient’s age at diagnosis and length of time before symptoms first appear.

The majority of patients who have survived five years or longer are younger have responded better to surgery and associated treatments, both palliative and nutritional.

Use of asbestos only began to be banned in the UK from the mid 1980s onwards. While cases of mesothelioma have always been highest among men aged 65 and over, in the last 15 years, there has been a rise in asbestos-related disease among 55 year old males. By 2004, more than 1 per cent of all UK malignant cancer deaths were caused by mesothelioma.