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Mesothelioma in Men and Women

Key takeaways: Women are at higher risk for developing mesothelioma, but experience a significantly longer time between symptoms and diagnosis. Women might be at higher risk for misdiagnosis, as mesothelioma and ovarian cancer are derived from the same tissue. One way to address this disparity is to spread awareness of mesothelioma in men and women, especially as its symptoms are often congruent with other cancers.

Men at Higher Risk

According to the American Cancer Society, men are at a higher risk for developing mesothelioma. While this isn’t attributable to biological predisposition (i.e., men do not have more of a genetic or biological likelihood for developing mesothelioma), there are a number of hypotheses as to why men are more susceptible. The most widespread hypothesis for this is because they have been historically more likely to work in occupations that include exposure to asbestos. And, because asbestos exposure is the most significant risk factor for developing mesothelioma, this hypothesis has been embraced by many.

Diagnosis Time

A recent study (2022) performed a qualitative survey on 460 malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) patients. They were looking to gauge gendered differences in diagnosis, treatment, and satisfaction with care. Importantly, the duration of diagnosis was significantly longer for women: the median time elapsed before diagnosis was 92 days for men and 152 days for women. Another study conducted (2002) found that despite similar levels of asbestos exposure, women were more likely to develop mesothelioma than men: “Metintas and coworkers compared the relative risk of women vs men for a malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) due to environmental amphibole asbestos exposure. The relative risk was higher for women than for men: 159.8 per 100,000 vs 114.8 per 100,000, respectively,” (Smith). When putting these two studies in conversation with each other, there seems to be a disconnect: women are more at risk, but are diagnosed much slower. Smith suggested a plausible explanation: “Both ovarian cancer and malignant peritoneal mesothelioma derive from the same tissue, the coelomic epithelium from which the ovarian surface epithelium is derived.” So, women might be at higher risk for an incorrect diagnosis, or might be subject to more extensive differential diagnoses, meaning that other diseases/cancers have to be ruled out before testing for another one begins.

Implications

Because MPM is an aggressive cancer, diagnosis as soon as possible is imperative for treatment. For future research, it might be useful to incorporate occupational work history as an area of diagnostics, (Senek et al.). If a woman has known exposure to asbestos, she might be given different diagnostic models; perhaps her doctor will screen her for mesothelioma before ovarian cancer. There is a notable lack of research and/or calls to action to mitigate gendered differences in MPM diagnosis and care. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, please call The Halpern Law Firm at (800) 505-6000. We are here to help you navigate the legal process of filing a claim to receive compensation for your cancer diagnosis. We help mesothelioma victims and their families in Pennsylvania.
  • Senek, M., Robertson, S., Darlison, L., Creech, L., & Tod, A. (2022). Malignant pleural mesothelioma patients’ experience by gender: Findings from a cross-sectional UK-national questionnaire. BMJ Open Respiratory Research, 9(1), e001050. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjresp-2021-001050
Written By Carina Filemyr
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David brenton

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