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The Risk to Navy Veterans of Developing Mesothelioma

On the heels of the $32 million verdict awarded to a former US Navy boiler tender, represented by Belluck & Fox, Navy veterans across the country are beginning to ask if they may be susceptible to developing mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease.  

Although mesothelioma is a rare disease with between 2,000 and 3,000 new cases reported annually, statistics show that military veterans account for over one-third of those cases. 

Asbestos was widely used in the military between the 1940s and 1970s putting veterans at a greater risk of asbestos exposure. The U.S. Navy, as well as the commercial maritime industry, made extensive use of asbestos and asbestos-containing materials in the construction and renovation of its ships. In fact, members of the U.S. Navy probably had some of the highest exposure rates to asbestos. 

Mesothelioma is known to be caused by exposure to asbestos fibers.  A unique quality of the disease is that it has such a long latency period that some veterans are just now exhibiting symptoms, decades after they were exposed to asbestos while serving in the Navy. 

A recently released study shines a light on the devastating effect of mesothelioma on veterans who served from World War II through the Vietnam era. The study presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology conference and published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology analyzed 928 veterans. Researchers found the average veteran had about seven months to live after diagnosis with malignant pleural mesothelioma.

The median age of veterans with mesothelioma in the study was 71.  Nearly 90 percent of veterans diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma were Caucasian and about 9 percent were African American. In the analysis, some factors observed among the veterans correlated with longer survival including younger age, diagnosis of early stage cancer, the type of cellular structure of the mesothelioma and receipt of surgery.

While most often mesothelioma patients had been exposed to asbestos over a period of years, some studies show that even small amounts of asbestos and infrequent exposure can create a risk for contracting mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases. 

If you were exposed to asbestos during your military service you should contact a doctor – even if you are not experiencing symptoms – for a health screening. Early detection of asbestos-related illness can significantly increase your survival rate and improve your quality of life.

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Nancy Meredith is a blog and web content writer with more than 20 years of professional experience in the Information Technology industry. She has been writing about Mesothelioma for 7 years. Follow Nancy on Google+

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