Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive disease, one that can affect any person who comes into contact with asbestos. However, some people are more at risk of developing the cancer than others.

Due to numerous characteristics of the disease, seniors are one such group of people.

According to the American Cancer Society, the latency period for mesothelioma to develop can be anywhere from 20 to 50 years after asbestos exposure. Most times you don’t see any signs or symptoms until years later, making the common age range for diagnosis 50 to 70 years old.

Since mesothelioma takes years to develop after exposure, the majority of people diagnosed are seniors. Seniors diagnosed today could have been exposed to asbestos in their homes or at their place of work without even knowing. It’s also possible that seniors were exposed to asbestos from a secondhand source. People in an occupation that included asbestos could have exposed their families at home. When asbestos fibers on clothing and hair are brought inside the house, family members are put at risk of inhaling the particles.

Here are some additional examples of people who are often affected by mesothelioma.


Unfortunately, veterans are amongst the largest group of people diagnosed with mesothelioma today. Most men and women went off to serve their country without knowing the dangers they would face by just breathing in the air around them.

Asbestos was widely used in all branches of the military because of its insulating and fire-retardant properties. However, the United States Navy was known to have an excess risk of exposure because of occupations and living arrangements the other branches didn't have. Up until the latter half of the 20th century, asbestos exposure in the military was very common and has increased the risk of veterans developing mesothelioma today.

Doctors and other personnel serving on naval ships could have experienced second-hand exposure. Ships built during the early and middle parts of the 20th century used asbestos as a protector from fires, since ships risked fires at sea. This usage of asbestos put everyone on board at high risk of exposure.

In other branches of the military, asbestos was mostly used to insulate the barracks and transportation vehicles. However, certain occupations (such as marine aircraft technicians and army engineers) were also known to carry a greater risk.

Industrial Workers

Thousands of people went to work each and every day not knowing the dangers of working with asbestos. Many people had no idea that they were endangering themselves as well as their families when they went home every night.

Asbestos was widely used in commercial products such as insulation, brake pads, paint and roofing materials. Railroad workers, shipbuilders and factory workers are considered the top three occupations exposed to asbestos the most and in turn have a higher risk of developing mesothelioma today. Before the last decade of the 20th century, companies used asbestos frequently because it was readily available and cheap to produce. Even today, some buildings and other occupations still involve asbestos.

So even though the American workforce is more aware of asbestos’ risks, there’s still likely to be future seniors who are diagnosed with mesothelioma.

If you think you’ve been exposed to asbestos, the best thing to do is schedule routine check-ups with your doctor. This ensures that if you do have any signs of mesothelioma, it’s detected sooner rather than later. The website Mesothelioma Guide is a patient advocacy resource for patients and their families to get the help and resources they need. The website includes content connecting patients with doctors and treatment options that are best suited for them. The information services and resources are 100% free to patients and family members.

Submitted by Nicole Winch

This content is free for use with credit to the City of Madison - Madison Senior Center and a link back to the original post.