Malignant mesothelioma is an uncommon cancer associated with asbestos exposure, predominantly occupational. Asbestos has been banned in Australia since 2003 but mesothelioma has a long latency and incident cases continue to present. The Australian Mesothelioma Registry was incepted to collect systematic data about incidence and mortality alongside asbestos exposure.
Benefiting from the Australian national system of cancer notification, all incident cases of mesothelioma in all states and territories are fast-Tracked and notified regularly. Notified patients are contacted asking for consent to collect exposure information, initially by postal questionnaire and subsequently by telephone interview. Age-standardised annual incidence rates and mortality rates were calculated. Asbestos exposure was categorised as occupational, non-occupational, neither or, both; and as low, or high, probability of exposure.
Mesothelioma incidence appears to have peaked. The age-standardised incidence rates have declined steadily since the early 2000s (peaking in males at 5.9/100 000 and in all-persons at 3.2/100 000), driven by rates in males, who comprise the majority of diagnosed cases. Rates in women have remained fairly stable since that time. Age-standardised mortality rates have followed similar trends. Mesothelioma remains the most common in those aged over 80 years. Nearly all (94%) cases were linked with asbestos exposure (78% occupational in men; 6.8% in women).
With effective control of occupational asbestos use, the decline in age-standardised incidence and death rates has occurred. Incidence rates among women, in whom occupational asbestos exposure is rarely detectable, remain unchanged, pointing to the role of household and /or environmental asbestos exposure.
- occupational health