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Pattern of malignant mesothelioma incidence and occupational exposure to asbestos in Western Australia

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Western Australia has one of the highest rates of malignant mesothelioma (MM) in the world.1 Early cases of MM were predominantly caused by the crocidolite mining operations at Wittenoom.13 During the 1950s, Australia had the highest per capita asbestos consumption in the world,2 mostly to manufacture asbestos cement, and there was an increasing number of MM cases in workers using these asbestos products. Production declined rapidly in the 1980s, and all production and importation of asbestos were prohibited from 31 December 2003.

The aim of our study was to describe the pattern of MM incidence in WA in relation to occupational exposure to asbestos.

All incident cases of MM are recorded in the WA Cancer Registry and reviewed by an expert committee (pathologist, respiratory physician, occupational physician, epidemiologist and cancer registrar) to verify the diagnosis. All available exposure information — including medical (often collected for workers’ compensation purposes) and employment records — was examined to determine the most significant occupational exposure likely to be responsible for the disease. The number of cases for each occupational group was expressed as a proportion of all cases for each decade.

There were 1263 confirmed cases…