Mesothelioma Death Rates Rising According to CDC

Illustration of mesothelioma research

In a report published earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that mesothelioma mortality rates are still rising, despite increased awareness about the dangers of asbestos and better detection and treatment methods.

According to the report, between 1999 and 2015 the number of deaths caused by malignant mesothelioma each year has increased by 5% (from 2,479 to 2,597). During that period, more than 45,200 people died from mesothelioma as an underlying or contributing cause of death.

While more people are dying from mesothelioma, the distribution of deaths has shifted somewhat, the report said. For people less than 65 years old, the number of deaths is decreasing, while individuals aged 85 or older have higher mesothelioma death rates.

In cases where the occupation of individuals with mesothelioma was known, the two riskiest professions are shipbuilding and construction. More than 96% of known workplace exposure occurred in one of these industries.

This new data is in accordance with previous studies that have predicted the rate of mesothelioma deaths will increase through at least 2020. This is due in part to the widespread presence of asbestos – which is still not banned in the United States – as well as the extended latency period of the disease. It can take twenty to fifty years after the initial asbestos exposure for the first symptoms of mesothelioma to appear.

The CDC’s report also coincides with another recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) that looked at mortality trends among many different types of cancer. In concurrence with the CDC’s findings, that study showed that mesothelioma mortality rates “increased in nearly all counties” across the United States from 1980 – 2014, even while many other cancers have shown declining mortality rates.

The CDC’s most recent report provides the first major update of nationwide mesothelioma epidemiological data since a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) report published in 2014, which only provided data through 2010.

The report’s authors called the number of deaths due to mesothelioma “substantial,” noting a need for continuing to work toward asbestos exposure prevention and regulatory efforts.