Every year, around 2,500 people are diagnosed with some form of mesothelioma in the United States. Although anyone is susceptible to the disease, there are several occupations, such as plumbing, railroad work, heating and cooling, general contracting, and similar jobs, that leave employees at a higher risk for the disease.
One such high-risk occupation is service in the military. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, veterans, especially those that served in the Navy, account for approximately one-third of mesothelioma diagnoses in the U.S. each year.
Navy veterans are especially susceptible to mesothelioma because of the nature of their work. In previous years, the Navy used asbestos as a cheap and effective insulator that was both fire- and corrosion-proof. When service members dismantled, repaired or otherwise maintained these ships, they were unknowingly exposed to asbestos.
Although the Navy no longer uses asbestos in its ships, there remains an influx of veterans being diagnosed with mesothelioma. This is because the disease can take up to 40 years to cause symptoms and be diagnosed. As a result, many mesothelioma patients are veterans over the age of 65, and it is likely that more will be diagnosed in the coming years.
Because of this, the Department of Defense designated mesothelioma as an eligible disease under the Peer Reviewed Cancer Research Program in 2008, which gives grants to researchers for the study of a variety of cancers. This year, the Department will give $16 million in grants, hoping to “improve the quality of life by decreasing the impact of cancer on service members, their families, and the American public.”
Source: Surviving Mesothelioma, “Defense Department Combats Mesothelioma,” 22 July 2011