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British Journal of Cancer (1999) 79, 666–672. doi:10.1038/sj.bjc.6690105
Published online 14 January 1999

The European mesothelioma epidemic

J Peto1,6, A Decarli2,3, C La Vecchia2,4, F Levi5 and E Negri4

  1. 1Section of Epidemiology, The Institute of Cancer Research, Sutton, Surrey SM2 5NG, UK
  2. 2Istituto di Statistica Medica e Biometria, Universitá degli Studi di Milano, 20133 Milan, Italy
  3. 3Istituto per lo Studio e la Cura dei Tumori, 20133 Milan, Italy
  4. 4Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche ‘Mario Negri’, 20157 Milan, Italy
  5. 5Registre Vaudois des tumeurs, Institut Universitaire de Médecine Sociale et Préventive, CHUV-Falaises 1, CH-1011, Lausanne, Switzerland
  6. 6London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London WC1E 7HT, UK

Received 8 April 1998; Revised 16 June 1998; Accepted 16 June 1998



Projections for the period 1995–2029 suggest that the number of men dying from mesothelioma in Western Europe each year will almost double over the next 20 years, from 5000 in 1998 to about 9000 around 2018, and then decline, with a total of about a quarter of a million deaths over the next 35 years. The highest risk will be suffered by men born around 1945–50, of whom about 1 in 150 will die of mesothelioma. Asbestos use in Western Europe remained high until 1980, and substantial quantities are still used in several European countries. These projections are based on the fit of a simple age and birth cohort model to male pleural cancer mortality from 1970 to 1989 for six countries (Britain, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands and Switzerland) which together account for three-quarters of the population of Western Europe. The model was tested by comparing observed and predicted numbers of deaths for the period 1990–94. The ratio of mesothelioma to recorded pleural cancer mortality has been 1.6:1 in Britain but was assumed to be 1:1 in other countries.


mesothelioma; pleural cancer; mortality trends; Europe



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