A national study of British asbestos workers is briefly described and the mortality experience of 31 150 male asbestos workers in England and Wales who had been medically examined at least once as part of that survey is presented. The survey population is divided into workers with occupational exposure to asbestos before the inception of the 1969 Asbestos Regulations and those who worked with asbestos only after 1969. Of the 1128 who had died, 897 had worked before 1969; 34 of the death certificates received for these men mentioned mesothelioma and for another nine asbestosis was reported in the absence of mesothelioma or lung cancer. A statistically significant excess of lung cancer (SMR 136) was found. For the post-1969 workers, one case of asbestosis and one case of mesothelioma were reported, but further investigation of these cases showed probable occupational exposure to asbestos many years before 1969. The time from first exposure for this section of the population is too short to exclude an excess of asbestos related disease. The most noticeable excess of asbestos related disease was seen among the insulation workers who had more than twice (SMR 256) the expected number of deaths from lung cancer, and for whom almost 10% of all death certificates mentioned mesothelioma. No excess of any alimentary tract cancer was found and the population showed a significant deficit of large bowel cancer mortality (SMR 54).
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