Mesothelioma Awareness Day will once again take place on September 26, marking 15 consecutive years of awareness aimed to educate and inform society about the deadly cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Established in 2004 by the Meso Foundation, the event eventually received recognition by the House and U.S. Senate making it a national event that takes place annually in September.
Mesothelioma is a cancer that originates in the thin membrane that surrounds several organs and cavities within the body. The primary location for these tumors is around the lungs (pleural mesothelioma), and the abdomen (peritoneal mesothelioma). The initial concept of mesothelioma dates back to the 1700s when “pleural tumors” were defined by Joseph Lieutaud, a French physician known for his work in pathologic anatomy . However, it wasn’t until the early 1900s that the term “mesothelioma” was even coined and another few decades after that where the link between asbestos exposure and illness was defined.
Today, it is a known fact that asbestos is a carcinogen, and even the smallest amount of exposure can lead to mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis, throat cancer, and colon cancer. Through the years, anti-asbestos advocates have pushed for a complete ban of asbestos in the United States It is illegal to mine asbestos in the United States (the last mine closed in 2002), but asbestos is able to be imported from other countries to be used in various products – specifically in the cholor-alkali industry.
This past year, the EPA proposed the Significant New Use Rule (SNUR), which is designed to investigate past uses of asbestos, but ignore products, buildings, and structures that already contain the carcinogen. This means that asbestos that is already placed in society will not be included in the scoping documents the EPA is required to release that are to list all asbestos exposure hazards in the United States. This has greatly concerned anti-asbestos advocates.
There is no cure for mesothelioma, but by raising awareness, the Meso Foundation is able to contribute to research that develops more effective cancer treatments, such as immunotherapy and gene therapy. These two therapies are available through clinical trials, and rely on funding so scientists and researchers can continually develop the most advanced and effective treatments.
Even though many products today do not contain asbestos, the threat of a mesothelioma diagnosis has not declined. The latency period between the time of initial asbestos exposure and illness can span upwards of 40 years, so those who worked with or around asbestos in the 1960s and 1970s are just now being diagnosed. With approximately 3,000 people each year diagnosed in United States, the mesothelioma rate is expected to continually rise until the year 2020. For more information about Mesothelioma Awareness Day and what you can do to help, visit the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation website.