From the blog

Increasing Levels of Women are Dying from Mesothelioma

Published: June 10, 2022

Over the past 20 years, the number of women dying from mesothelioma increased by 25 percent. This is happening even with less asbestos being used. Deaths in men have been falling, the reverse of what is happening in women. The information was published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report by the CDC. The annual death rate was calculated for women from the years 1999 through 2020. The increased deaths from mesothelioma in women is most likely because of asbestos exposure years before their diagnosis, which is why preventing exposure is so important.

In the 22 years, 12,227 women died from mesothelioma versus 46,443 men. Select years saw 489 women die in 1999 and 614 die in 2020 while 672 died in 2017 and 614 died in 2019. Men saw a drop in deaths from 1,990 in 1999 to 1,981 in 2020. The highest level of deaths in a single year was 2,286 deaths in 2011. The report was also able to estimate that the median time between occupational asbestos exposure and death from mesothelioma was 32 years. While the main cause of asbestos exposure for men was construction, manufacturing, and shipyards, homemaker was the largest occupation listed for women who died from mesothelioma. There were 22.8 percent of deaths in homemakers, while health care workers and social assistance workers made up 15.7 percent of deaths, registered nurses made up 4.9 percent of deaths, and teachers made up 5.6 percent of deaths in women who died from mesothelioma.

Women 25 years or older were included in the report. The majority of deaths (90 percent) were in women 55 or older. The authors of the report believe that 85 percent of male deaths from mesothelioma were from occupational exposure while 23 percent of female deaths were occupational exposure related. Most female deaths were likely from environmental exposure, asbestos in older buildings, or contact with family members who worked with asbestos and brought it home.

The highest death rates from mesothelioma in women were in locations including Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin, which are all heavily involved in the shipyard industry. Since there is a long latency period between exposure and diagnosis and death, it is not uncommon to see an uptick in deaths. Most asbestos is now found in older buildings, but 320 tons of asbestos were used in 2021, which is much lower than the highest level of 803,000 metric tons used in 1973. Building renovations and demolition will have to be done carefully to prevent asbestos exposure in construction workers. If people are careful, the risk of death from asbestos exposure can be limited.

Jacek M. Mazurek et al., “Malignant Mesothelioma Mortality in Women – United States, 1990-2020” CDC (May 13, 2022). [Link]
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