Key takeaways: The latency period for mesothelioma refers to the time elapsed between exposure to asbestos and
the development of mesothelioma, a malignant cancer of the tissues surrounding the lungs.
Analytical studies conducted in Italy and Korea both found a shorter latency period in
occupational exposure to asbestos rather than second-hand or environmental. This has
implications for anticipating future latency times, as researchers have found a significant link.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring group of minerals known for their sturdy, insulating properties.
They were used in industrial mills, to insulate houses, construct water pipes, and were mined in
the natural environment. You can check out a more exhaustive list of occupations known to have
asbestos exposure here. Importantly, asbestos exposure does not mean immediate consequences:
there is a well-documented latency period between asbestos exposure and the onset of
mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. This latency period describes the amount of
time that elapses between exposure and onset, with the average amount of time for
asbestos-related diseases being over 40 years. While the phenomenon of the latency period is
well understood, its biological and/or environmental justifications are less understood. We have
established that it exists; we do not necessarily understand why it exists (and why the length
varies depending on each patient). We will explore retrospective review studies that have been
conducted in different countries that seek to understand the latency period of mesothelioma.
Italy banned asbestos use and production in 1992; however, up until that point, they were
massive producers of the product. There were hundreds of thousands of tons generated and used
each year, with the peak years of utilization occurring between 1976-1979. After banning
asbestos, Italy instituted a national mesothelioma registry, which documents all mesothelioma
cases in the country. This includes data like patient health history, survival, and treatment(s)
administered. Importantly, the registry doesn’t document possible asbestos exposures, as it would
be difficult to pinpoint with accuracy.
The retrospective analysis study sought to identify possible links between latency time and other
factors, like age, extent of exposure, and occupation, sex, and morphology (in which type of cell
the mesothelioma originates). The researchers found that “Latency length appeared related to the
age at diagnosis, the year of diagnosis and the modalities of asbestos exposure,” (Marinaccio et
al.). They also found a “shorter latency period observed among occupationally exposed subjects
with respect to those environmentally and household exposed,” (Marinaccio et al.). So, multiple
factors contributed to the latency period; this makes its tracing and eventual application difficult
for future cases.
Korea banned the production, import, and usage of asbestos in 2009 (notably, much later than
Italy). The country’s use of asbestos peaked in 1992, and the latency period is reaching its peak
now. The researchers of the Korean analysis used data collected by the Ministry of Environment
and included 3,902 people in its study.
Again, similar to the Italian study, the Korean study hoped to identify links between asbestos and
latency period. They asked questions like: does environmental or occupational exposure matter
in terms of the length of the latency period? Does sex contribute to the latency period? Does
repeated versus intermittent exposure contribute to the latency period? etc. The researchers found
that the “…latency of patients exposed to occupational asbestos was shorter in mesothelioma and
lung cancer than in patients exposed to environmental asbestos,” (Huh et al.). This was in line
with what Italian researchers noted, too. Excitingly, this establishes a contemporary link between
exposure, latency, and onset, and will provide the foundation for future studies.
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
Huh, D.-A., Chae, W.-R., Choi, Y.-H., Kang, M.-S., Lee, Y.-J., & Moon, K.-W. (2022).
Disease Latency according to Asbestos Exposure Characteristics among Malignant
Mesothelioma and Asbestos-Related Lung Cancer Cases in South Korea. International
Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(23), 15934.
Marinaccio, A., Binazzi, A., Cauzillo, et al. (2007). Analysis of latency time and its
determinants in asbestos related malignant mesothelioma cases of the Italian register.
European Journal of Cancer, 43(18), 2722–2728. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejca.2007.09.018
Written By Carina Filemyr
Now that you know the mesothelioma statute of limitations in Pennsylvania, contact an experienced attorney from our firm to represent your case before time runs out.
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Page Reviewed and Edited by
Dave Halpern, Mesothelioma Attorney
Dave Halpern is a Pennsylvania and New Jersey mesothelioma attorney with over 30 years of experience. He has investigated hundreds of cases and won numerous multimillion dollar settlements and verdicts for asbestos victims. Dave prides himself on working tirelessly to help his clients in their time of need.