Study Finds 20%-25% of Mesothelioma Cases Go Undiagnosed

An international group of researchers
has just released the results of a 15-
year study of global mesothelioma rates. The findings suggest that this rare form of cancer (caused specifically
by exposure to asbestos ) strikes many more people than anyone had
previously anticipated. In fact,
research has shown that between 1 in
4 and 1 in 5 cases go unreported.

The study was sponsored by The National Institute of Health, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services. The results were
released in an article written in 2010
that was accepted for publication in
Environmental Health Perspectives and
posted in its entirety online in January of 2011. Researchers Eun-Kee Park et
al. surveyed 89 countries worldwide,
collecting data from a fifteen year
period between 1994 and 2008.

World Health Organization data from the 56 countries in which
mesothelioma rates were recorded
showed that the disease killed
174,300 people. Researchers then
dug deeper for corroborating data.
Because mesothelioma has an incubation period of up to forty years,
they went back prior to 1970 and
found the total amount of asbestos
use in those 56 countries during that
time frame. Official data, taking into
account for political destabilization and storage of mass quantities of the
carcinogen, shows that over 65 million
tons of asbestos were used up until

Comparing those two numbers the
researchers found a mathematical
equation that defined the linear
relation of asbestos use to cases of
mesothelioma. They used that formula
to calculate disease rates in the 33 countries in which no mesothelioma
data exists. The result was shocking.
It was estimated that 38,900
previously unknown cases of mesothelioma (roughly ¼ of the reported cases) went undocumented.
The total sample size of this study
accounts for 82% of the world’s population.

Heavily industrialized nations lead the
pack for use of asbestos and
mesothelioma deaths. During the time
frame in question, the five countries
that consumed more asbestos than
any other were (in order of tonnage) the United States, UK, Italy, Germany,
and France. Those five countries
suffered almost 112,000 cases of
mesothelioma in total—over 64% of the world’s documented cases.

Researchers warn that after 1970, the
date when they stopped collecting
data, asbestos use almost doubled to
124 million tons. That means that
countries which used asbestos after
1970 or are still actively using it are expected to see their mesothelioma
rates climb even higher as the latency
period for new cases reaches its end

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