Areas with highest risk of asbestos-related cancer identified

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People living in parts of Cumbria, West Yorkshire, Tyne & Wear, Teesside and Merseyside are among those at the highest risk of developing the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma, a new study has found.

Researchers from the Small Area Health Statistics Unit at Imperial College London collected and analysed data from across England and Wales to identify local hotspots for 14 serious illnesses and possible links to environmental factors.

The findings, published in the form of an online Health Atlas, show that incidents of mesothelioma were highest in locations which had traditionally been industrial and shipbuilding areas, where exposure to asbestos was more likely to happen.

Among the places found to have the highest rates of mesothelioma were Newcastle, Sunderland, Hartlepool, Stockton, Barrow-in-Furness, Leeds, Wakefield, Wirral, Liverpool, Rochdale, Halton and Crewe.

Asbestos-induced mesothelioma cases are more common in industrial areas (©radiopaedia.org)

Researchers also discovered much higher than average levels of mesothelioma in parts of the south of England known for their shipyards, including Plymouth, Portsmouth and Medway.

Previous research had indicated that exposure to asbestos in the workplace is the most common cause of mesothelioma and the new study’s finding that risk levels are much higher in traditional industrial areas appears to back that conclusion.

Most new cases of mesothelioma are linked to past exposure to asbestos and the number of deaths from the disease is expected to begin falling from around 2020, as a result of the strict controls on the use and management of asbestos introduced over the past 30 years.

However, as the substance was so widely used in buildings prior to 1999, workers - particularly in the refurbishment and demolition industries - remain at risk of exposure to asbestos fibres unless the proper asbestos management and removal procedures are followed in workplaces.

For more information about asbestos management, surveys and removal, please get in touch with BLS Asbestos.

Published: 29th April 2014