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Mesothelioma Cases in UK Due to Asbestos Exposure in Workplaces Rises

Mesothelioma Survivor

A recent article published in the British Journal of Cancer discusses occupational cancers that are prevalent in Britain including lung cancer and mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that develops in the protective lining of the body’s organs known as the mesothelium. It is associated with exposure to asbestos, a mineral fiber used in many industries in the 20th century. Mesothelioma tumors most commonly appear in the lining of the chest cavity, but also may appear in the lining of the abdominal cavity or the lining around the heart.

According to the article, the number of mesothelioma deaths has increased markedly each year in Great Britain since the 1960s. Mesothelioma accounted for 2,046 cancer deaths in Great Britain in 2005 compared to 153 deaths in 1968, the year that Great Britain began a registry of mesothelioma deaths. The British Mesothelioma Register is the most comprehensive source of data on mesothelioma in the country.

Mesothelioma is more common in men who tend to have jobs in industries that had occupational risk of asbestos exposure. Among the industries that used asbestos and presented a higher risk of mesothelioma are mining and milling, insulating, shipyard work, sheet metal fabrication, asbestos by-products manufacturing, and the asbestos cement industry. Males account for about 85 percent of mesothelioma deaths each year.

Mesothelioma symptoms typically appear 30 to 40 years after exposure to asbestos, meaning that most people who develop the disease are older. They are often retired workers or veterans. About two-thirds of the people diagnosed with mesothelioma are between the ages of 60 and 80 years old, according to the article.

In addition to mesothelioma, the researchers at the British Occupational Cancer Burden Study Group say that a large number of studies report increased lung cancer among workers exposed to asbestos. All forms of asbestos cause cancer, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Lung cancer ranks among the cancer with the highest number of cases associated with occupational exposures. The recent article cites a 1996 study from the American Journal of Occupational Medicine. The earlier article, by researchers at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in the United States, estimated that 9,900 to 11.900 develop lung cancer from occupational exposure to carcinogens and approximately half of the cases involve asbestos.

In the United States, approximately 2,500 to 3,000 people a year are diagnosed with mesothelioma. Most people were exposed to asbestos decades ago in a workplace or during military service such as while serving in the Navy.  Mesothelioma is an incurable disease, but there are treatment options to manage the cancer. Treatments are more effective if the cancer is detected before it has reached an advanced stage.

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Last Modified: March 4, 2019

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