Asbestos-related cancer deaths still rising in U.S.

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Deaths from malignant mesothelioma, a cancer primarily associated with asbestos exposure, are still on the rise in the US, federal health officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta reported Thursday.

In an analysis of death records, the CDC found that 18,068 deaths from malignant mesothelioma occurred between 1999 and 2005. During that period, the number of mesothelioma deaths per year climbed from 2482 to 2704.

The annual mesothelioma death rate during the 7-year period, however, held steady at around 14 per million.

According to a report in the CDC’s weekly bulletin on illness and death, the vast majority of mesothelioma deaths involved white men. The state of Maine had the highest number of deaths at 173 with an annual rate of 27.5 per million.

Although a number of regulatory actions have been implemented to reduce the use of asbestos exposure, the lag time from initial exposure to disease onset can be as long as 40 years. The CDC expects the number of mesothelioma deaths to peak by the year 2010.

“Although asbestos has been eliminated in the manufacture of many products, it is still being imported and used in the US in various construction and transportation products,” the report notes. “Ensuring a future decrease in mesothelioma mortality requires meticulous control of exposures to asbestos and other materials that might cause mesothelioma.”

SOURCE: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, April 24, 2009.