Mesothelioma Cancer Trends

Mesothelioma Cell

The study of mesothelioma cancer trends is a part of the larger science of mesothelioma epidemiology. Researchers in this branch of science study data from large populations to gauge the causes and effects of a disease with the hope of controlling or preventing its spread. Because most of these cancers are caused by exposure to asbestos, the global trends of the disease are closely related to trends in asbestos exposure.

Occupational asbestos exposure accounts for most of the world’s exposure to asbestos. In many of the world’s industrialized countries, workplace exposure to asbestos reached its peak and is receding. This is because the mining, consumption and manufacturing of asbestos were banned outright, were limited by law and regulation, or declined because of an increased understanding of asbestos-related health risks.

Multiple research studies have stated that the incidence of asbestos-related cancers in industrialized nations has not yet peaked, but predict the number of cases will max out during the 2020s and 2030s. In the United States, however, it is likely that the peak in mesothelioma incidence has already occurred.

In contrast, developing counties such as China, Kazakhstan, Russia, Brazil, India, Pakistan, Mexico, Indonesia and Thailand increased the use, production and exportation of asbestos. In these countries, asbestos exposure is still on the rise. Researchers predict that ongoing asbestos consumption in developing nations will contribute to additional disease in the future, but exactly how much is hard to quantify.

Precise analyses are difficult because data models differ from country to country. This is because of historic differences in asbestos exposure and consumption. In some countries, accurate data on asbestos use and disease are not available. In addition, because the cancer’s latency period can be anywhere from 15 to 60 years, it is difficult to predict mortality curves with speculative data. Still, most researchers estimate that it will take at least another 50 years before asbestos-related cancers all but disappear.

Among the countries with available data, the highest incidence rates of mesothelioma occurred in the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Australia. These countries are also among those that took steps to control asbestos exposure beginning in the 1980s, so their rates are expected to decline over the next few decades.

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Trends in the United States

Incidence rate per 100,000 people, age-adjusted to the 2000 U.S. population.

Mesothelioma Incidence by Gender

Source: National Cancer Institute, SEER Cancer Incidence Rates.

The elevated incidence of mesothelioma cases in the United States over the past few decades stems from exposures to high levels of airborne asbestos fibers from the 1930s through the 1960s. The groups most exposed were insulators and tradesmen working near insulators, especially in the shipbuilding industry immediately before and during World War II. Because of the heavy use of asbestos in Navy ships, Navy veterans are among those most affected by the cancer.

Although asbestos use is not officially banned in the United States, government regulations have severely restricted the toxic mineral's use since the 1970s. As a result, researchers believe the incidence of mesothelioma may have peaked in the United States around 2010.

The annual number of asbestos cancer cases in the United States appears to be on the decline, yet people exposed to asbestos decades ago will continue to develop the disease in coming years because of its lengthy latency period. One study projected approximately 85,000 cases in the United States from 2008 to 2054.

Worldwide Trends

Predicted Peak in Mesothelioma Incidence by Country

Country Estimated Peak
Australia 2014-2021
Denmark 2015
Italy 2015-2024
Japan 2027
Netherlands 2017
United Kingdom 2011-2015
United States 2010

Despite undeniable evidence that asbestos exposure can trigger mesothelioma and several other serious respiratory illnesses, its worldwide incidence continues to rise. Industrialized nations will likely experience a peak in the cancer's incidence over the next two decades, but the rates in developing nations are rising. This is because they are increasing asbestos use instead of reducing it.

Additional Resources

  1. Robinson, B. (2012, November 12). Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma: An Epidemiological Perspective. Annals of Cardiothoracic Surgery. Retrieved from http://www.annalscts.com/article/view/1053/1582
  2. Cancer Research UK. (n.d.). Mesothelioma Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-info/cancerstats/types/Mesothelioma/
  3. Nurminen, M., Karjalainen, A. and Takashi, K. (2003, October). Estimating the Induction Period of Pleural Mesothelioma from Aggregate Data on Asbestos Consumption. Retrieved from http://markstat.net/en/images/stories/meso_induction.pdf
  4. Australian Asbestos Network. (2012). Closure of Wittenoom. Retrieved from http://www.australianasbestosnetwork.org.au/Asbestos+History/Asbestos+at+Wittenoom/Closure+of+Wittenoom/default.aspx
  5. Baldi, A. (Ed.). (2008). Mesothelioma from Bench Side to Clinic. New York: Nova Science Publishers, Inc.
  6. Banaei, A., Auvert, B., Goldberg, M., Gueguen, A., Luce, D. & Goldberg, S. (2000). Future Trends in Mortality of French Men from Mesothelioma. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1739977/pdf/v057p00488.pdf
  7. Bianchi, C., & Bianchi, T. (2007). Malignant Mesothelioma: Global Incidence and Relationship with Asbestos. Retrieved http://www.jniosh.go.jp/en/indu_hel/pdf/379_Bianchi.pdf.
  8. Clements, M., Berry, G., Shi, J., Ware, S., Yates, D., & Johnson, A. (2007). Projected Mesothelioma Incidence in Men in New South Wales. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2078410
  9. Hodgson, J. T., McElvenny, D. M., Darnton, A. J., Price, M. J., & Peto, J. (2005). The Expected Burden of Mesothelioma Mortality in Great Britain from 2002 to 2050. Retrieved from http://www.nature.com/bjc/journal/v92/n3/full/6602307a.html
  10. Kjaergaard, J., & Andersson, M. (2000). Incidence Rates of Malignant Mesothelioma in Denmark and Predicted Future Number of Cases Among Men. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10817376
  11. McCulloch, J. (2007). The Mine at Baryulgil: Work, Knowledge, and Asbestos Disease. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/pss/27516191
  12. Price, B. (1997). Analysis of Current Trends in United States Mesothelioma Incidence. Retrieved from http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/145/3/211.full.pdf+html
  13. Price, B. (n.d.). Trends in Incidence of Mesothelioma and Evaluation of Exposure to Asbestos. Retrieved from http://www.physics.harvard.edu/~wilson/publications/pp719/ppaper719.html
  14. Price, B. & Ware, A. (2004). Mesothelioma Trends in the United States: An Update Based on Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program Data for 1973 through 2003. Retrieved from http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/159/2/107.full.pdf+html
  15. Segura, O., Burdorf, A. & Looman, C. (2003). Update of Predictions of Mortality from Pleural Mesothelioma in the Netherlands. Retrieved from http://oem.bmj.com/content/60/1/50.full.pdf+html
  16. Van Meerbeeck, J. P., & Damhuis, R. (2011). Facts, Rumours and Speculations About the Mesothelioma Epidemic. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1440-1843.2011.02020.x/pdf

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