Epidemiology is the study of health events and characteristics within a society. Epidemiology is one of the main methods of public health research, and aids in identifying risk factors for disease, as well as targets for preventative medicine. Those who study epidemiology record and collect statistical data and then help interpret those results. Epidemiology considers the health of an entire population, rather than the individual.
Through epidemiological study it has been determined that the most prominent causation associated with mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos.
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Approximately 2,000 to 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year; of those between 70% and 80% have a history of asbestos exposure—either occupationally or secondary. Due to a delay in the regulation of this toxic mineral coupled with mesothelioma’s long latency period, those who worked with or around the substance before the 1970s and 1980s are just now being diagnosed.
Diagnosis and Gender
Historically men were most likely to hold those jobs associated with asbestos, therefore making them more prone to diagnosis than women. According to statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control between 1999 and 2005, 14,591 men and 3,477 women died of malignant mesothelioma.
Men remain at a higher risk for developing mesothelioma in general, but it is reported that women are more likely to be diagnosed with peritoneal or pericardial mesothelioma. Scientists and medical researchers still remain in debate over exactly why this is. Experts are also trying to determine why there is a higher incidence of mesothelioma in Caucasians. The same statistical information previously mentioned from the CDC also states that between 1999 and 2005, 17,180 Caucasians, 707 African Americans, and 181 members of other races died of malignant mesothelioma.
The most common type of mesothelioma is malignant pleural mesothelioma. This form of the disease affects the lining of the lungs. Approximately 60% to 75% of all cases are diagnosed as pleural mesothelioma. This is because asbestos fibers are most likely to be inhaled and then imbed themselves in the lining of the lungs, acting as a human carcinogen.
Those diagnosed with this form of the disease tend to have a more favorable prognosis and thus longer survival rate than other types of mesothelioma.
The study of statistics and reports stemming from epidemiological research will hopefully lead to better preventative measures concerning mesothelioma. These numbers will also hopefully lead to diagnosis of the disease while it is in the earlier stages, resulting in stronger patient prognosis.