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Study: Women with mesothelioma may live longer after surgery than males

Mesothelioma research is a popular topic in the medical world right now, due to the increasing number of people showing symptoms of the deadly disease. While research is leading doctors to a clearer path on how to treat the disease, there are still many difficulties in diagnosing and treating asbestos-related diseases.

However, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, have made an interesting discovery. A recent study done by the hospital has shown that while women tend to develop mesothelioma earlier than men, they also tend to live longer with the disease after surgery.

Currently there is no cure for mesothelioma, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), and the average length of survival time ranges from four to 18 months after the initial diagnosis. There are some cases where a patient will live longer.

The study, published in the Annals of Thoracic Surgery, looked closely at the role of gender in surviving mesothelioma. According to the study, researchers examined more than 700 patients who underwent surgery at Brigham and Woman’s Hospital between 1987 and 2008 to treat mesothelioma. Of the total patients, 145 were women.

What researchers found surprised them. They found that extrapleural pneumonectomy (EEP), a surgery that removes the cancerous lung and surrounding layer of tissue, or pleura, is actually more beneficial to women than men.

EEP is considered a radical surgery because of the large amount of tissue that is removed and the highly invasive techniques necessary to complete the operation and women tended to fare better after the procedure than their male counterparts, according to the study.

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that can affect the lining of the lungs, that is caused by exposure to airborne asbestos fibers, according to WHO. Generally, men tend to develop this cancer more than women, because of the presence of asbestos dust in various industrial jobs such as mining, auto repair and ship building. Often times when men would return home, asbestos fibers settled in their clothing and hair, tracking the deadly substance into their home.

Women and children are often victims of second-hand asbestos exposure due to this, according to WHO.

There is a greater influx of people suffering from asbestos-related diseases right now, as symptoms can take up to several decades to develop.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that has been used extensively for its fire resistant and insulating properties. It became very popular among manufacturers during the late 19th century, because it was a cost effective way to make many of their products stronger and more durable. Those who worked in the ship building industry were often exposed to the mineral in steam and boiler rooms.

In the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, which used to have a large shipbuilding center, the development of mesothelioma is seven times higher than the national rate, according to the Virginia Pilot. Thousands of tons of asbestos were used in World War II ships to insulate pipes, line boilers and cover turbine parts.

During WWII there were 4.3 million shipyard workers in the country, and for every thousand workers, 14 died from mesothelioma, according to the Pilot.

Along with mesothelioma, exposure to asbestos can lead to the development of asbestosis and lung cancer, according to WHO. Every year, an estimated 107,000 people around the world die from asbestos-related diseases, reports the WHO.

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