New Study Shows Asbestos Bans Slow to Impact Mesothelioma Rates, According to Surviving Mesothelioma

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A recent study published in the Danish Medical Journal and reported by Surviving Mesothelioma illustrates the fact that it can take many decades for an asbestos ban to have a measurable impact on a country’s rate of mesothelioma.

A clear long-term effect of the Danish asbestos ban has not yet occurred.

Denmark banned the use of asbestos in insulation in 1972 and extended the ban to other asbestos-containing products in the late 1980s. It is now one of 55 countries to have banned the product completely. But according to the new study of mesothelioma in Denmark, a steady rise in cases of this asbestos-linked cancer that began in the 1950s is still going on.

Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer of the membranes around internal organs, most often the lungs or abdomen. It is the deadliest of the many diseases associated with exposure to the mineral asbestos. Asbestos’ low cost, availability, and resistance to fire and corrosion made it a popular insulator and component in building materials worldwide from as early as the 1930s, putting hundreds of thousands of workers at risk for mesothelioma. Like Denmark, many countries began to curtail their use of the product after it was linked to mesothelioma and other health problems in the 1950s and 1960s.

In the latest study, the Danish research team used mesothelioma data from the Danish Cancer Registry from 1943 to 2009. They found that the total incidence of mesothelioma continued to rise throughout the period and was at its peak of 1.76 cases per 100,000 people in 2008-2009. There were more cases in the Region of Northern Jutland than there were in Southern Denmark. Although survival has improved, the researchers note that prognosis for mesothelioma remains poor, with a median survival of 12.5 months for men and 13.3 months for women in 2008-2009.

"The national malignant mesothelioma incidence for men continues to increase, perhaps showing a slight tendency towards deceleration in the most recent decade," the authors conclude in the Danish Medical Journal. But they go on to say that "A clear long-term effect of the Danish asbestos ban has not yet occurred."

The latency period or lag time between exposure and disease development in mesothelioma can be many decades. It is this latency that can make the disease difficult to diagnose and to trace to its source. Once diagnosed, mesothelioma tends to progress quickly. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 92,000 people have died of mesothelioma since 1994.

The original Danish study appeared in the Danish Medical Journal. (Skammeritz, E, et al, "Regional difference in incidence of malignant mesothelioma in Denmark", March 2013, Danish Medical Journal.

For nearly ten years, Surviving Mesothelioma has brought readers the most important and ground-breaking news on the causes, diagnosis and treatment of mesothelioma. All Surviving Mesothelioma news is gathered and reported directly from the peer-reviewed medical literature. Written for patients and their loved ones, Surviving Mesothelioma news helps families make more informed decisions.

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Michael Ellis
Cancer Monthy
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