Global Magnitude of Mesothelioma


Park EK, Takahashi K, Hoshuyama T, et al.
Global magnitude of reported and unreported mesothelioma.
Environ Health Perspect. 2011 Apr;119(4):514-8.
PubMed PMID: 21463977

Investigators at University of Occupational and Environmental Health (Japan), University of Birmingham (UK), and National Taiwan University estimated the global magnitude of mesothelioma, accounting for reported and unreported cases.

Noting that malignant mesothelioma – a rare form of cancer caused specifically by exposure to asbestos – is a major public health concern because it “is difficult to diagnose, has extremely poor prognosis, and is on the increase, and that “epidemics of mesothelioma have been reported nationally and regionally,” the authors point out that current epidemiological data are “biased toward developed countries and regions with the resources to diagnose asbestos-related diseases and with known historical use of asbestos” and that “mesothelioma is grossly underreported in many developing countries, including some with known extensive use of asbestos.”

From the conclusion:

“We estimated the 15-year cumulative frequency of mesothelioma during 1994–2008 in the 56 countries reporting mesothelioma to be 174,300. Using cumulative asbestos use to predict cumulative mesothelioma frequency at national levels, we predicted the 15-year cumulative frequency of mesothelioma during 1994–2008 in the 33 countries that do not report mesothelioma to be 38,900. Thus, globally, for every four to five reported cases of mesothelioma, one case has been overlooked. These estimates support the need for countermeasures at national, regional, and international levels.”

The authors observe that the world has “nearly doubled cumulative use of asbestos from 65 million metric tons up until 1970, to 124 million metric tons since then,” and that in particular, Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Japan, the United States, Brazil, Germany, India, and Thailand “should anticipate the need to deal with a very high burden of mesothelioma in the immediate decades ahead.”

They urge that “developed countries share experience and technology to enable developing countries to promote accurate diagnosis, reporting, and management of [asbestos-related diseases]” and that “political will is essential to ensure that asbestos use ceases globally.”

Free full text is available via PubMed.

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