To assess the prevalence of non-malignant chest x ray abnormalities in cases of mesothelioma 184 cases of mesothelioma (72 pleural and 112 peritoneal) which had occurred in a cohort of asbestos insulation workers followed up since 1967 were studied. Chest x ray films of satisfactory quality, on which the presence or absence of non-malignant radiological changes indicating interstitial pulmonary fibrosis or pleural fibrosis or both, could be assessed with a high degree of certainty were available. In some cases (20% for pleural mesothelioma, 11.6% for peritoneal mesothelioma) non-malignant radiological changes were not radiologically detectable. Parenchymal interstitial fibrosis (small irregular opacities) only was found in a proportion of cases (25.4% of pleural mesotheliomas, 12.5% of peritoneal mesotheliomas). Pleural fibrosis only was detected in 17% of cases of pleural mesothelioma and 27% of cases of peritoneal mesothelioma. Most patients had both parenchymal and pleural fibrosis. Although these results tend to indicate that in peritoneal mesothelioma the proportion of pleural fibrosis is significantly higher, these findings might have been due to the fact that in most cases of pleural mesothelioma non-malignant changes were interpreted in one hemithorax only. In 46 cases (21 pleural, 25 peritoneal) in which sufficient lung tissue was available histopathology of lung parenchyma indicated the presence of interstitial fibrosis; in 20 (43.5%) of these the chest x ray film had been read as negative. Thus the absence of radiologically detectable small opacities on the chest x ray film does not exclude the existence of interstitial pulmonary fibrosis in cases of mesothelioma among insulation workers. With lower levels of exposure (such as in family contacts of asbestos workers) it is conceivable that mesothelioma might occur in the absence of interstitial pulmonary fibrosis.
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