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Mesothelioma Cases Increasing in Australia and United States

Lung Cancer

The first report of a new national registry of mesothelioma in Australia shows that 27 people per million population are diagnosed with mesothelioma. That is nearly double the incidence of mesothelioma in the United States. Still it likely represents an undercount of mesothelioma cases in Australia due to delays in coding some diagnoses. Australia has one of the highest rates of mesothelioma in the world, according to the report by Safe Work Australia, a government agency that promotes worker safety and health.

According to the report, men accounted for 85 percent of the reported cases of mesothelioma since the new registry became operational in July 2010. Three-fourths of the people with mesothelioma were 65 years or older when diagnosed. The most common diagnosis was malignant pleural mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the chest cavity. Pleural mesothelioma represented more than nine out of every 10 diagnoses.

The overall rate of mesothelioma has been increasing in Australia since 1982 when data on new cases first became available, according to the report. Similarly, a 2009 report by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health indicated that deaths from mesothelioma are still increasing in the United States, based on data from 1998 through 2005. The overall rate in the U.S. is 14 deaths per million population per year. But only a half dozen states in the U.S. have mesothelioma rates of 20 per million population or greater, according to NIOSH.

Building materials containing asbestos and other asbestos products were widely used in Australia just as in the United States in the decades after World War II. As of August 2012, there had been 310 deaths of people diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2011 in Australia. Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer and many people are not diagnosed until the cancer has reached an advanced stage.

Construction workers and people in building trades and electrical trades had the highest likelihood of exposure to asbestos, leading to a mesothelioma diagnosis in Australia. Currently in the United States, an estimated 1.3 million construction workers and general industry workers are potentially being exposed to asbestos, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

Historically, Australia has been one of the world’s highest users of asbestos, which was mined down under. Because of the long lag time of 20 years to 50 years between exposure to asbestos and appearance of the disease, the report predicts that incidence of mesothelioma in Australia likely still increasing and has not peaked.

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Last Modified: February 18, 2019

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