In Southern England, mesothelioma cases are still risingIn the UK, as in the U.S., occupational asbestos exposure continues to have a profound impact on public health, with dozens of deaths each day associated with the dangerous mineral. Recently, a team of epidemiologists from King's College, London, estimated that the incidence of mesothelioma in Southeast England will continue to rise for at least 15 more years.
Why did the researchers focus on so specific a region of the UK? It is because Southeast England, especially the industrial region that surrounds the mouth of the Thames River, is essentially ground zero for the exposure of British shipyard workers to asbestos.
Mesothelioma: An ongoing epidemic
Unlike infectious diseases, in which symptoms can quickly become apparent and the illness itself may be diagnosed in a matter of weeks or months, malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) is a disease that lurks.
The condition's sole proven cause is asbestos exposure, which is typically incurred in occupational settings. Workers inhale asbestos dust, and, over the years, these fibers skewer and inflame millions of pulmonary cells. Yet all of this damage does not immediately cause MPM. Instead, it triggers a slow cascade of cellular reactions that lead to mesothelioma decades later.
MPM practically redefines the notion of a long latency period. The National Cancer Institute estimates that between first exposure to asbestos and an eventual diagnosis of mesothelioma, the average lag time is 48 years. This means that workers who were exposed to large amounts of asbestos in the 1960s - as UK shipyard workers were - re only just now approaching the peak of their generation's MPM epidemic.
It's not over yet
In the new report, researchers analyzed data collected in the Thames Cancer Registry. In particular, they analyzed the rates of mesothelioma diagnoses made between 1960 and 2009 and Britons living in Southeast England.
The results indicated that the incidence of MPM is still rising in this population.
Scientists noted that the rate of mesothelioma diagnosis was higher for each successive generation all the way up until 1945, at which point it flattened out. Based on this discovery and on the current annual increase in MPM cases, the group estimated that mesothelioma cases in males in Southeast England will continue to increase until 2022.
In females, the MPM rate is expected to plateau by 2027. Researchers noted that the vast majority of mesothelioma patients in this populace have a history of occupational asbestos exposure, primarily from shipyard work.
In the U.S., the highest rates of asbestos exposure tend to be noted among shipyard employees, construction and demolition workers, asbestos cement makers, brake pad manufacturers and pipefitters.
Rare polyps may develop as a consequence of malignant mesothelioma, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3481150/, 11/6/12
Asbestos exposure led to death of Merchant Navy man, http://www.getbracknell.co.uk/news/s/2123312_former_merchant_navy_man_died_from_mesothelioma_after_inhaling_asbestos_fibres, 11/5/12
Siblings honor father-son mesothelioma victims, http://www.hartlepoolmail.co.uk/community/taking-to-skies-for-dad-and-brother-1-5064192, 10/31/12
Former students, colleagues rally around coach who has mesothelioma, http://hinsdale.suntimes.com/sports/15657700-419/badminton-legend-battling-cancer.html, 10/23/12
Bike ride raises money for mesothelioma research, http://www.livingstondaily.com/article/20121014/NEWS01/210140322/Resident-cycles-raise-funds-fight-rare-cancer?odyssey=tab%7Ctopnews%7Ctext%7CFrontpage, 10/16/12
Report describes latest cases of mesothelioma in Australia, http://www.mesothelioma-australia.com/media/10599/amr%20report%20final%2012%20september%202012.pdf, 9/27/12
Mesothelioma fundraiser celebrates third year, http://www.wowktv.com/story/19600262/putnam-woman-organizes-fundraiser-in-memory-of-father, 9/24/12
Charity 5k walk/run to raise money for mesothelioma research, http://www.theday.com/article/20120918/NWS01/120919658/1019&town=, 9/21/12
Family of five sisters to raise funds for mesothelioma charity, http://www.thisissomerset.co.uk/Sisters-plan-family-fun-day-memory-father/story-16840190-detail/story.html, 9/20/12