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Ind Health. 2007 Jun;45(3):379-87.

Malignant mesothelioma: global incidence and relationship with asbestos.

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  • 1Center for the Study of Environmental Cancer, Italian League against Cancer, Hospital of Monfalcone, Italy.


Mesothelioma incidence varies markedly from one country to another. The highest annual crude incidence rates (about 30 cases per million) are observed in Australia, Belgium, and Great Britain. A lot of data indicate a relationship between mesothelioma and asbestos. The hot areas for mesothelioma exactly correspond to the sites of industries with high asbestos use, such as shipbuilding and asbestos-cement industry. However, in many countries with high asbestos consumption, mesothelioma incidence is low. The reasons for this fact are not clear. The latency periods elapsing between first exposure to asbestos and development of mesothelioma are mostly longer than 40 yr. An inverse relationship exists between intensity of asbestos exposure and length of the latency period. Mesothelioma generally develops after long-time exposures to asbestos. Some recent studies show that the risk increases with the duration of exposure. Possible co-factors in the pathogenesis of asbestos-related mesothelioma include genetic predisposition, diets poor in fruit and vegetables, viruses, immune impairment, recurrent serosal inflammation. The study of co-morbidity in mesothelioma could give an insight into the pathogenesis of the tumor. While a levelling-off in mesothelioma incidence has been registered in some countries, a worsening of the epidemic is predictable in large parts of the world.

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