Mesothelioma is a cancer of the protective lining of the body cavities and internal organs such as the lungs, heart and bowel. Asbestos exposure is the only known cause of mesothelioma.
Australia was one of the biggest users of asbestos in the world and a large amount of asbestos remains in our buildings and other infrastructure. As a result we have one of the world's highest rates of mesothelioma with the rate of new diagnoses predicted to peak between 2014 and 2020.
The pain, suffering and economic consequences of mesothelioma are significant and more research is needed to better understand the types of asbestos exposure that cause mesothelioma.
Safe Work Australia and Comcare fund the Australian Mesothelioma Registry (AMR) which is managed by the Cancer Institute of New South Wales. The Monash Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health undertakes the exposure assessment component of the AMR.
The AMR began in 2011 and it contains information about people newly diagnosed with mesothelioma from 1 July 2010 onwards.
- measures and monitors the incidence of mesothelioma in Australia and the associated deaths, and
- documents the likely asbestos exposure experience of people diagnosed with mesothelioma.
Key findings in the AMR 2013 asbestos exposure report noted:
- 619 people were diagnosed with mesothelioma between 1 January and 30 December 2012. Most of these were men older than 65 years (this number has increased as more notifications come to the AMR).
- 229 patients diagnosed with mesothelioma between 1 July 2010 and 31 December 2012 who participated fully in the asbestos exposure research. Of these, the majority were probably exposed to asbestos through their work.
- For 70 of the 229 people in the exposure study, exposure to asbestos probably only occurred in non-occupational contexts. Most of these people either undertook major home renovations that involved asbestos products or they had lived in a house during major renovations.
- Work-related exposures predominantly involved tradespersons in construction trades, electricians, plumbers, boilermakers / welders, metal and mechanical trades.
This information will be used to identify the groups of workers most at risk of exposure to asbestos and to identify increases in the incidence of mesothelioma that may result from non-workplace exposures (the third wave).
Australian governments will use this information to design responsive policies to prevent future exposure to asbestos and to better understand the likely cost of future disease.
For more information on the Australian Mesothelioma Registry or to download their reports visit the Australian Mesothelioma Registry website.