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0424 Risk of mesothelioma and risk of exposure to asbestos in people supposedly unexposed to asbestos
  1. Nicholas de Klerk1,
  2. Len Gordon2,
  3. Helman Alfonso3,
  4. Alison Reid3,
  5. Nola Olsen1,
  6. Robin Mina1,
  7. Peter Franklin1,
  8. Susan Peters1,
  9. Fraser Brims3,
  10. Jennie Hui4,
  11. Bill Musk1
  1. 1University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia
  2. 2Caltex Australia, Perth, Australia
  3. 3Curtin University, Perth, Australia
  4. 4PathWest Laboratory Medicine, Nedlands, Australia


Objectives Malignant mesothelioma (MM) is a rare and generally fatal cancer, usually caused by asbestos, although about 5%–10% of cases report no asbestos exposure. This study aimed to identify sources whereby people in Western Australia (WA) may be unknowingly exposed to asbestos or to other exposures which may cause MM.

Methods Cases with no known asbestos exposure were selected from the WA Mesothelioma Register. Matched controls were selected from hospital patients admitted for conditions unrelated to asbestos. Occupational histories were coded by an industrial hygienist. Data were analysed using conditional logistic regression.

Results Eligible cases were far fewer than anticipated. After 9 years there were 38 MM cases (from a total of more than 400 reported cases of MM over the same time period), 65 other cancer controls and 69 medical controls recruited. Odds ratios did not differ by type of control so both sets of controls were combined. Thirty-eight MM participants and 134 controls were recruited. Risk of MM was increased (OR=3.1, 95% CI 1.0–9.6) after no known, but likely, exposure to asbestos at work.

Conclusions Because of its widespread use, very few people in WA have never been exposed to asbestos and careful elucidation of occupational and environmental histories usually uncovers likely exposures sufficient to cause MM. This study suggests that most cases of MM in people with apparently no known exposure to asbestos occur, at a low rate, among the large numbers of people who have had small amounts of incidental asbestos exposure.

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