The chances of developing mesothelioma never reduces, no matter how far back in time a period of exposure to asbestos occurred or how long a person may live, according to a new study. The findings appear to support similar, previous research, which also suggests that the risk continues to rise, even after 40 years or more.

The results are important because the success of a mesothelioma claim can often depend on showing the court that, ‘on the balance of probabilities’, it was likely that a victim’s mesothelioma was due to a level of original exposure to asbestos during the period of time when the claimant was employed at the company, even if they were afterwards exposed again at one or more different workplaces.

Chances of a confirmed diagnosis increased the longer an individual lived

European researchers recently analysed the data of 131 mesothelioma patients and a further 655 individuals who enrolled on a health surveillance programme for asbestosis diseases between 2000 and 2014. When calculating the odds of those who would develop the incurable cancer of the lung linings after an original exposure the results suggested that the chances of a confirmed diagnosis increased the longer an individual lived, even after 40 years since the exposure.

The results of the study starkly indicate that the individuals who had last been exposed to asbestos four decades ago were more than two-and-a-half times as likely to develop mesothelioma as those whose last exposure was just 5 years ago.

Previous research aimed at advancing our asbestos awareness and understanding of the body’s response to the behaviour of fibre dust particles in the development of asbestos-related disease also found similar results. Analysis of more than 22,000 individual exposures – including 862 mesothelioma cases – also suggested that the risk of developing the fatal cancer following an initial exposure never reduces, regardless of life expectancy.

Risk actually intensified up to 45 years following first exposure

In this earlier study, nearly 45 per cent of pleural mesothelioma cases and more than 50 per cent of peritoneal mesothelioma cases were diagnosed at least 40 years after a first exposure. Even after 50 years, there were still over 13 per cent and 23 per cent, respectively, of pleural and peritoneal cases recorded. It was also found that the risk of pleural mesothelioma actually intensified up to 45 years following first exposure and then appeared to develop at a slower rate.

The findings may be viewed in the context of trying to secure mesothelioma compensation for a victim of asbestos exposure at any time in their employment history, for example, when serving an apprenticeship at one particular workplace. While an asbestosis lawyer will aim to obtain an out of court settlement, a former employer can often try to deny their level of contributory exposure to a victim’s mesothelioma, compared to any exposure levels at any other workplaces during the victim’s lifetime.

More prone to asbestosis diseases if exposed early in life

A defendant employer will not only vigorously contest their liability, based on identifying the specific cause of an asbestos-related disease amongst several workplaces in a former employees work history but also raise the issue of the time that has lapsed between original exposure and the appearance of asbestosis symptoms. In court, an employer defendant may simply argue that any exposure after the first few years would be unlikely to eventually lead to developing mesothelioma.

Claimants have always faced a significant difficulty in establishing one or more former employers’ liability for preventing or minimising the potential health risk of exposure, which eventually leads to the terminal cancer. A period of between 15 to 50 years or more may pass before the emergence of indicative symptoms such as, breathlessness, tight chests or repeated coughing.

Previous studies have also suggested that individuals are likely to be more prone to developing mesothelioma or other asbestosis diseases if they were exposed early on in their life. Medical data has revealed that the highest incidence of malignant pleural mesothelioma was among victims under the age of 20 when they were first exposed to asbestos. There is also the possibility of greater susceptibility to other types of cancers as well as an increase in deaths caused by strokes and heart disease.

Annual number of mesothelioma patients remains high

The continuing research may also help to add to our understanding as to why the annual number of mesothelioma patients in the UK continues to remain high even though asbestos use reduced significantly from the late 1970s and the first ban introduced just over thirty years ago.

The incidence rate of mesothelioma in the UK has steadily risen to being one of the world’s highest, with a four-fold increase just in the last thirty years, according to The Office of National Statistics. More than 2,500 people now lose their lives to mesothelioma every year – up by more than 10 per cent since 2011 – according to the latest available figures from Health & Safety Executive (HSE) Annual Report, 2014.