The global incidence of mesothelioma is declining for the first time in decades.
Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive type of cancer. Compared to other types of cancer, mesothelioma has limited treatment options and poor survival rates. In 2020, an estimated 30,870 people worldwide were diagnosed with mesothelioma, which accounts for 0.17% of total cancer cases.
A recent study published in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology evaluates the global occurrence of mesothelioma, risk factors, and how the disease affects various ages, genders and geographic locations. The drop in global incidence of malignant mesothelioma indicates the world could eventually be rid of this cancer.
Results From the Worldwide Study
Researchers gathered information from the Global Cancer Observatory, Cancer Incidence in Five Continents Plus and Global Burden of Disease databases in 2020 to evaluate mesothelioma incidence and associated risk factors around the world. The global data was segmented by region, country, age and gender.
The results showed the global rate of mesothelioma per age group was 30% per 100,000 people.
The highest mesothelioma incidence rates per age group were found in these regions:
- Northern Europe
- Australia and New Zealand
- Western Europe
- Southern Europe
- Southern Africa
The countries with the highest mesothelioma incidence rates were:
- United Kingdom
- The Netherlands
- New Zealand
Overall, the global trend of mesothelioma incidence is declining. The most notable declining trends were found in:
- The United States
Aside from this study, another report proves the decline in mesothelioma cases. An article published in the JAMA Network shows how Italy’s mesothelioma rates have dropped since the country banned asbestos in 1992. The number of cases in Italy was 1,409 in 1990. The number peaked in 2015 at 1,820. It dropped to 1,746 in 2017 and likely is headed downward still today.
Regional Mesothelioma Incidence
The data from the study is interesting, as the higher incidence of mesothelioma can be associated with more developed regions, such as Northern Europe. This can also correlate to the demand of asbestos during the 20th century – or before – as well as the volume of asbestos use throughout the region.
Regions with the highest mesothelioma incidence are also categorized as early industrial regions, such as nearly the entire continent of Europe. With a more developed region comes more health care access, knowledge and resources, which can mean more effective awareness campaigns and diagnostic strategies, which can lead to patients responding quicker to symptoms and seeing their doctors to run tests. This can be one reason for a higher mesothelioma incidence.
Mesothelioma Incidence Among Men and Women
Another notable difference was between gender and mesothelioma incidence. The male population had significantly higher incidence of mesothelioma, which can be linked to the likelihood of asbestos exposure for men.
When asbestos was at its peak, it was being used in industrial work environments, such as mining, shipbuilding, construction, military, and more. During the 20th century, men were most likely working in these environments and being exposed to asbestos on a regular basis. This is referred to as occupational asbestos exposure.
Mesothelioma Incidence Between Age Groups
There was a massive difference in mesothelioma incidence between age groups. People above 50 are far more likely to have been diagnosed with mesothelioma as opposed to those under 50 years old. This is mostly due to the long latency period of mesothelioma. The cancer usually takes 20-50 years after asbestos enters the body to form.
This global study was important for the world to see that mesothelioma cases are declining, but mesothelioma is not extinct. As long as there is not a global ban of asbestos, there will always be a risk of mesothelioma. The decline in mesothelioma incidence is a positive step, but it’s also a reason to ban asbestos completely and eliminate this devastating cancer.
- Global Incidence, Risk Factors, and Temporal Trends of Mesothelioma: A Population-Based Study. Journal of Thoracic Oncology. Retrieved from: https://www.jto.org/article/S1556-0864(23)00125-9/fulltext. Accessed: 03/01/2023.
- Mesothelioma: Statistics. Cancer.net. Retrieved from: https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/mesothelioma/statistics. Accessed: 03/01/2023.
- Assessment of Global Trends in the Diagnosis of Mesothelioma From 1990 to 2017. JAMA Network. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34379126/. Accessed: 03/06/2023.
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