From the blog

Mesothelioma Global Impact Study

Published: March 24, 2023

A study looking at the global impact of mesothelioma was recently published. Researchers examined age, sex, and geographic locations to see the risk of asbestos at the population level. It was discovered that Northern Europe, Australia, and New Zealand had the highest rates of mesothelioma. The age standardized rate of the disease was .30 per 100,000 people and it was reported that the rates were much higher in men than women. Asbestos is the main cause of mesothelioma and could be found in many working environments like steel mills, construction, and even consumer products. Many countries have banned or at least restricted the use of asbestos, but some countries still use the carcinogen, leading to the risk of mesothelioma for different populations.

Data came from a report called Global Cancer Observatory, Cancer Incidence in Five Continents Plus and Global Burden of Disease. The data was observed and analyzed to determine the global rates of mesothelioma and the risk factors for the disease around the world. Multivariable analysis was conducted for sex and age for every country studied, which helped researchers determine the relationship between asbestos and mesothelioma rates. The average annual percentage change was also calculated to help determine epidemiological trends of the disease.

Researchers found that countries with higher human development index, gross domestic product per capita, and levels of asbestos exposure had higher rates of mesothelioma. Researchers believe this is caused by larger asbestos use during industrialization. They determined differences in health care can lead to higher rates, since better care can more accurately diagnose mesothelioma versus poor or lacking medical care. Researchers found that the number of cases of mesothelioma are decreasing. In people ages 50 to 70, high gross domestic product led to decreasing trends of mesothelioma. The largest decrease was Germany, with the United States and Australia following. Comparatively, Iceland had a large increase. Of less developed countries, Brazil had a large decrease in rates, but the highest decrease was found in Bulgaria. Researchers also found that mesothelioma rates are growing in women, which could mean more environmental exposure to the carcinogen.

This data is very important for understanding mesothelioma, but the study is not foolproof. The researchers believe that the number of global mesothelioma cases needs to be adjusted. Lower income countries could have under reported cases or misclassified mesothelioma as different cancers. These countries also have less quality data on cancer, which limits how well data can be analyzed. The latency of mesothelioma is also problematic because it can reduce the accuracy of a mesothelioma diagnosis. Numbers in the study could have also been over or underestimated. Despite the limitations of the study, the data should be taken seriously, especially regarding disease burden, risk factors, and trends. Reducing asbestos is an important part of lowering the risk of mesothelioma diagnoses. The researchers have suggested using safety guidelines and providing protective equipment to workers exposed to asbestos. More data needs to be studied to help determine all risk factors for mesothelioma so countries can reduce rates of mesothelioma and other asbestos caused cancers.

Jungie Huang et al., “Global Incidence, Risk Factors, and Temporal Trends of Mesothelioma: A Population-Based Study” Journal of Thoracic Oncology (February 9, 2023). [Link]
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