Between 1999 and 2005, 67 percent of the Americans diagnosed with mesothelioma were older than age 65, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Mesothelioma, a rare cancer caused by asbestos exposure, is more common among older Americans because of its long latency period (as much as 20 to 30 years) and the heavy use of asbestos in the United States throughout the 1900s.

Asbestos exposure awareness during Older Americans Month.Not only do older Americans have a higher risk for mesothelioma and asbestos exposure, they also have a significantly higher risk of unintentional injury or death in general. The Administration for Community Living states that at least 6 million medically treated injuries occur among older individuals every year.

May is Older American’s Month and the 2014 theme is “Safe Today, Healthy Tomorrow.” The purpose of Older American’s Month is to recognize the older individuals among us for their contributions to society. It also aims to provide this age group with the right resources and tools needed to stay informed, safe, active and healthy.

One piece of information that is important to share with older people is the danger of asbestos exposure and the necessary steps to take if exposure to asbestos has already occurred. In the mid-1900s, certain occupations had a higher risk of asbestos exposure, such as U.S. Navy members, carpenters, construction workers, plumbers, oil refinery workers, electricians and many others. Numerous men and women in these occupations worked in and around asbestos fibers on a daily basis. In addition, they may have brought the fibers home with them on their clothing and exposed their family.

When asbestos exposure occurs, it can take as many as 20 to 30 years for symptoms of mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases to appear. This makes regular medical check-ups extremely important, especially among individuals who worked in the aforementioned occupations.

Staying safe today, by visiting a doctor if you or a loved one has been exposed to asbestos, can help promote a healthy tomorrow. While there is no cure for mesothelioma, treatment can be more effective if the disease is caught early.

Learn more about Older Americans Month 2014 and how you can get involved, or explore more information about asbestos exposure and mesothelioma.