Malignant mesothelioma often has a long period of latency, in fact the longest of the asbestos-related diseases, before a diagnosis occurs in people. Diagnosis happens when the disease becomes apparent, but latency refers to the length of time it takes from being exposed to asbestos until the time when the disease becomes apparent in a clinical examination. Latency can be as short as 10 years or as long as 50, but the average length of latency for malignant mesothelioma is 35 to 40 years between exposure and diagnosis.

Because the latency period for mesothelioma can vary from patient to patient, so too does the age of onset of the disease vary. However, most adult mesothelioma cases are diagnosed in patients between the ages of 40 and into their 60s. Child mesothelioma, while rare, does occur in 2 to 5 percent of malignant mesothelioma diagnoses.
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