Norwich, UK—A father and grandfather who long outlived his doctor’s prognostication has at last succumbed to the asbestos cancer mesothelioma.
Martin Lofty, who died at the young age of 54, was diagnosed with the fatal cancer in May 2006 and was told at the time that he probably only had a few weeks to live. Nevertheless, he managed to survive for over three and a half years after the diagnosis.
Remarkably, Lofty continued working for two years after his diagnosis, although he and his wife also treated themselves to some tropical vacations. Lofty was a plumbing and heating engineer, and his workplaces were likely the source of his mesothelioma, due to asbestos exposure. Once heavily used in the plumbing and heating industries as insulation around pipes, furnaces and boilers, asbestos has been regarded as a dangerous toxin since the 1970s, and has been gradually phased out.
Despite the fact that it is no longer used in new construction, asbestos remains in existing structures. Additionally, it has been called a “silent killer” because it can remain latent within the body for years, eventually leading to a diagnosis of an asbestos-related disease such as the rare cancer mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma develops after an individual has inhaled the carcinogenic asbestos, which takes the form of a dust that contains microscopic yet needlelike fibers. These fibers can penetrate the mesothelium, the protective layer of tissue lining the chest cavity and surrounding the lungs. When a mesothelioma tumor develops, it tends to spread quickly and to be very diffuse, sometimes covering the entire surface of the membrane. This makes it difficult to surgically remove, as well as resistant to chemotherapy and radiation.
There are approximately 3,000 patients newly diagnosed with mesothelioma each year in the United Kingdom. Lofty was unusual in having survived for so long; most mesothelioma patients have a median life expectancy of less than 18 months. Fewer than 10 percent survive two or more years past diagnosis.
Lofty is survived by his wife, five children and 13 grandchildren.