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Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that kills approximately 2,500 to 3,000 people each year in the U.S. Mesothelioma cancer has been diagnosed at an alarming rate, due to the latency period in which cancer can manifest often up to 50 years after asbestos exposure. Many veterans and others who were exposed to asbestos in the 1940s and 50s are now being diagnosed with this disease. The mesothelium is a tissue lining inside the chest cavity of the body that comprises the pleura; the tissue sac that holds the lungs. This cancer most often attacks the pleura and is usually fatal with the average life expectancy after a mesothelioma diagnosis of about 18 months.

The only confirmed cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral that is composed of millions of fibers that are too small to see with the naked eye. When a product that contains asbestos is disturbed - installed, removed or repaired - it is likely to shed or release some of these fibers, which are so light that they float in the air for hours or even days. People in the vicinity can breathe in the asbestos fibers without even knowing they are doing so.

The asbestos fibers become lodged in the lungs where they can cause the development of mesothelioma. This cancer is common among people who work in asbestos mines or work with asbestos products, which were very common in the in the construction of ships and buildings in the 1940s through the 1970s. Mesothelioma is more common compared to the general population, among plumbers, pipe fitters, steamfitters, shipyard workers, electricians and elementary school teachers. Although a cure has not yet been found, researchers are constantly working to cure the illness. Mesothelioma treatment centers have also been opened throughout the country to help support those who are living with the illness.

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