Lung cancer

Mesothelioma cases starting to fall


If there can be any good news about mesothelioma, it’s that the peak incidence of the asbestos-related disease has probably been reached in Australia.

And the risk of developing mesothelioma from occasional home renovations was extremely low.

According to a Narrative Review in the MJA, the age-standardised incidence rate for mesothelioma in 2015 was 23 cases per million. Most patients were men (78%) and over 65 years of age (82%).

 Professor Bill Musk, from the Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Perth, told the limbic the latency period between exposure to asbestos and the onset of the disease meant the number of cases was going to start to fall.

“Since Wittenoom closed in 1966 and asbestos was banned in Australia in 2003, fewer people are getting exposed and therefore there are less people at risk.”

He said the crocidolite (blue asbestos) mined at Wittenoom had been shown to be the most potent form of asbestos for causing mesothelioma.

The Review said there was little medical justification for screening people for malignant mesothelioma.

Early detection has not been demonstrated to improve the outlook for patients so screening is not generally considered to be worthwhile for mesothelioma.”

“We do screen people who’ve been exposed to asbestos for lung cancer because if you detect lung cancer at an early enough stage then it is possible to resect it and cure it but that’s not the case for mesothelioma.”

And while clinicians do stage the disease as a way of assessing its extent and severity, Professor Musk said its clinical utility was limited.

“The thing about mesothelioma is that it already involves the chest wall, the lung, the diaphragm and lymph nodes in the centre of the chest almost from the very outset, so staging isn’t all that helpful.”

The Review said median survival from pleural mesothelioma was nine to 12 months while peritoneal mesothelioma was often less than six months.

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