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Histopathology. 2003 Oct;43(4):387-92.

Synchronous diffuse malignant mesothelioma and carcinomas in asbestos-exposed individuals.

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  • 1Department of Histopathology, Llandough Hospital, Cardiff & Vale NHS Trust, Cardiff, Wales, UK.



The development of synchronous diffuse malignant mesothelioma and carcinoma in individuals exposed to asbestos is rare. We report nine cases and discuss the medico-legal implications.


Five hundred patients seeking compensation for asbestos-related diffuse malignant mesothelioma were reviewed with access to post-mortem data. The study group comprised cases in which a second (non-mesothelial) neoplasm was identified. The study group comprised eight males, one female, mean age 68 years (range 60-75). All individuals gave a history of asbestos exposure. Synchronous malignant mesothelioma with carcinoma was identified in 9/500 (1.8%). Eight malignant mesotheliomas were pleural, one was primary peritoneal in origin. By morphological subtyping there were four epithelioid, three biphasic and two sarcomatoid mesotheliomas. In 6/9 (67%) the second tumour was a primary bronchogenic carcinoma (three adenocarcinomas, two squamous cell carcinomas and one small-cell carcinoma). In 3/9 (33%) the second tumour was a non-bronchogenic carcinoma (colonic, pancreatic and breast ductal adenocarcinoma). No other neoplasms were identified in the cohort of malignant mesotheliomas studied. Five persons had pathological evidence of asbestosis (four had bronchogenic carcinomas, one colorectal adenocarcinoma). Two persons with non-bronchogenic carcinomas had identifiable asbestos bodies but no interstitial fibrosis. In two cases the second neoplasms (primary bronchogenic squamous cell and small-cell carcinomas) were associated with diffuse interstitial fibrosis but no asbestos bodies were seen on light microscopy. In each case transmission electron microscopic mineral analysis revealed an asbestos fibre burden within the background population range for control subjects and well below that seen in cases of established asbestosis. These cases were considered to represent cryptogenic fibrosing alveolitis in subjects with a history of asbestos exposure.


Synchronous malignant mesothelioma with carcinomas in asbestos-exposed workers is rare and identified in 1.8% of 500 malignant mesotheliomas in this series. In most cases the carcinoma represents a primary bronchogenic neoplasm. Primary lung carcinomas are recognized to be asbestos related only when occurring in association with asbestosis. In this series this combination (bronchogenic carcinoma and asbestosis) was seen in four (0.8%) cases. In post-mortem cases for possible malignant mesothelioma it is important to identify any other neoplasia and determine whether it is related to asbestos. Their presence impact upon anticipated life expectancy and in the presence of malignant mesothelioma will affect the compensation settlement.

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