Monday, November 12, 2007

Mesothelioma still needs more attention, research funding

Regarding the Oct. 15 front page article, ''Cancer death rates declining'': The death rate for mesothelioma, an extremely painful cancer in which membrane cells lining the chest or abdomen become malignant and proliferate uncontrollably, is on the rise.

Mesothelioma, caused by asbestos exposure, is almost always fatal. The life expectancy is 12.3 months with treatment and 9.2 months without. In fact, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, Pennsylvania ranks third in the nation in the mortality rate for mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma's latency is as long as 50 years, so millions of Americans who were exposed in the past five decades are at risk. And, given the current levels of asbestos exposure, it is inevitable that Americans will continue to be diagnosed for decades. The only hope is research to develop effective treatment.

Much has been accomplished with limited, private funding. It is time for the federal government to help find a cure. With facts like these, it is extremely distressing to know that less than 3 percent of cancer research dollars go to mesothelioma research. Wake up, Lehigh Valley; not all cancers or cancer death rates are on the decline.


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