According to recent research, mesothelioma continues to rise in Iceland, a country that was once a heavy importer of the mineral asbestos. The study “Malignant mesothelioma incidence by nationwide cancer registry: a population-based study,” was published in the Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology.
All types of asbestos — chrysotile, crocidolite, amosite, anthophyllite, tremolite, and actinolite — are considered causes of human malignant mesothelioma, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
The time from first exposure to asbestos until diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma, called the induction/latency time, can last 20 to 50 years with a shorter latency in the heavily exposed population and longer latency among groups with low-level exposure. Because of the long latency period, results of the asbestos ban might not be made apparent by decreased cases of the disease until after several decades have passed.
Researchers at the University of Iceland, the Administration for Occupational Safety and Health, and the Centre for Health Security and Communicable Disease Control conducted a population study using data from the Icelandic Cancer Registry, the National Cause-of-Death Registry, and the National Register. They aimed to evaluate the possible impact of the asbestos ban implemented in 1983 with the long-term changes in incidence of malignant mesothelioma up to 2014.
The researchers found that Iceland had a higher incidence of mesothelioma than its neighboring countries. Asbestos imports peaked in 1980 at 15.0 kg per capita per year, lowered to 0.3 kg per capita ten years after the 1983 ban, and landed at zero in the most recent years.
In other findings, 79% of the cases of malignant mesothelioma were men; 72% of the disease was found to originate in the lungs. The incidence of mesothelioma increased steadily from 1965 to 2014, when it reached 21.4 per million among men, and 5.6 per million among women. Mortality in 2014 was 22.2 per million among men and 4.8 per million among women.
Although researchers stress that the asbestos ban is working to reduce the incidence of mesothelioma in the future, they suggest that only time will surely tell a noticeable difference.