Currently, 89 countries track data on asbestos use or the prevalence of mesothelioma. While 56 of these countries track both variables, 33 do not have systems in place for tracking the incidence of the cancer among citizens.
Malignant mesothelioma is primarily associated with exposure to asbestos. The causal relationship between asbestos and the cancer has been established and confirmed, yet many industrialized and developing countries still rely on the mineral.
Currently reported at approximately 124 million metric tons, the amount of cumulative asbestos use worldwide has nearly doubled since 1970. This increase is considered responsible for the rising number of cancer cases. Researchers have established that past asbestos use can predict the trend of current and future death rates from asbestos-related diseases around the world.
According to the 2011 study conducted by researchers at the University of Occupational and Environmental Health in Japan, 174,300 asbestos cancer cases were reported worldwide between 1994 and 2008. In the 33 asbestos-using countries without a mesothelioma tracking system in place, as many as 38,900 cases may have gone undetected during the same 14 year time span.
The study indicated that in the countries that produce and export asbestos, the rate of cancer may continue to rise. Additionally, in countries where asbestos use continued to rise after 1970, the mesothelioma burden is also expected to increase in the upcoming decades. These countries, including Russia, Kazakhstan, China, India and Thailand, were estimated to have the most unreported cases.
The researchers indicated that for every four to five reported cases of asbestos cancer, one goes undetected. Many of the unreported cases are thought to occur in undeveloped countries with poor diagnostic techniques or in developing countries where the burgeoning asbestos companies seek to obscure the health risks associated with their product.