Introduction Australia has one of the highest rates of malignant mesothelioma in the world, a legacy of the widespread use of asbestos for several decades until the 1980s.
Methods In 2011, the Commonwealth Government commissioned a registry to provide on-going information on the incidence, mortality, case characteristics and exposure history of persons diagnosed with mesothelioma in Australia. Notifications come from state and territory cancer registries. Information on occupational and non-occupational asbestos exposure involves a self-completed questionnaire and a structured telephone interview using OccIDEAS, a computer-based exposure assessment system, and overseen by a research team at Monash University. The latest public data is current to 31 December 2014.
Results In 2014, there were 641 new notifications (607 deaths) of persons diagnosed with mesothelioma – 81% male, 85% aged 65 years or older (47% 75 years or older), 93% pleural, age standardised rate = 2.8/100,000. Using historical data, the peak incidence appears to have occurred around 2003 (3.2/100,000), although the number of cases appears to have peaked in the last few years.
Detailed exposure information was available for 449 people diagnosed from 1 July 2010. Key findings included possible or probable asbestos exposure above background levels in the following circumstances – occupational only (11%), non-occupational only (35%), both (49%), neither (5%). Occupational exposure was most common in construction workers, electricians and boilermakers/welders. The most common sources of non-occupational exposure were servicing cars in a non-occupational setting, home renovation and living with someone with an asbestos-exposed job.
Discussion and conclusion Results confirm the high frequency and rate of mesothelioma in Australia and identify common sources of occupational and non-occupational asbestos exposure. Methodological and practical challenges to the running of the Registry include delays in notification and delays in providing consent for contact for exposure assessment (but participation is high once contact is made).
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