Northern Britain Still Dominates For Mesothelioma Mortality Rates In Both Men And Women
More than 2,500 people died of a cancer linked to asbestos in a year, an increase of six per cent, latest government figures reveal.
The Health and Safety Executive has published its latest report into asbestos-related mesothelioma cancer deaths in Great Britain with northern cities still dominating mortality rates for men and women.
The report on Mesothelioma Mortality in Great Britain: 1968-2020 shows there were 2,544 deaths from mesothelioma (a terminal cancer of the lining of the lung or abdomen) in 2020, up 6 per cent on the 2019 figures.
The most up to date figures are a reminder of the “dreadful legacy” that asbestos has created, according to specialist lawyers at Irwin Mitchell who support thousands of people diagnosed with diseases caused by exposure to the hazardous material. The legal experts are also calling for more to be done to remove asbestos from public buildings to reduce death rates.
Expert Opinion“This latest report shows that, despite all our hopes of seeing a fall in mesothelioma cases, the numbers show no signs of decline, with a percentage increase among men and women alike.
“The report makes clear that mesothelioma deaths have continued to increase year on year over the last half-century, with over eight times as many deaths in the last decade compared to 1971-1980.” Adrian Budgen - Partner
According to the HSE, a total of 2,085 men and 459 women died from mesothelioma in 2020, up 6 per cent and 7 per cent respectively. The number of female cases was higher than the 416 average seen over the last eight years. However, it was in line with projections for between 400-500 female deaths per year from mesothelioma in the 2020s.
Covid-19 may have had an impact on the figures, as some people with mesothelioma may not have been diagnosed in 2020, due to the effects of the pandemic on cancer services across the country, and coronial inquests were also impacted.
Barrow-in-Furness, with 411, topped the local authority areas where the most men died based on standard mortality rates. West Dunbartonshire was second with 363, followed by North Tyneside with 287, South Tyneside on 273 and Portsmouth with 267.
Ranking areas using standard mortality ratios (SMRs) compares the actual mesothelioma deaths recorded to how many people would be normally expected to die in a given area.
The picture for women saw Barking and Dagenham top on 341, followed by Sunderland (324) and Newham in East London (290) and West Dunbartonshire (Clydeside) on 245. Leeds was ranked fifth with a SMR of 232.
While the figures remain heavily concentrated in the north, other cities also feature in the top ten mesothelioma hotspots, including Portsmouth on 267, Plymouth with 261 and Southampton at 222. Lawyers at Irwin Mitchell believe these areas’ historical links to shipbuilding, in which asbestos was widely used, is likely to be responsible for the death rates.
Earlier this year, MPs called for a 40 year deadline to remove all remaining asbestos from public and commercial buildings, within the UK.
Adrian Budgen, head of the asbestos-related disease team at Irwin Mitchell, added: “The impact of Covid-19 on these increases is hard to judge and we’ll see if a return to some normality sees the hoped for decline in these figures. Sadly, we deal with many families affected by asbestos-disease and it’s important to remember that, behind these numbers, are real people and families who have been left devastated by the dreadful legacy of asbestos.
“The MPs’ call for a timetable for asbestos removal is an acknowledgement that this problem is still very much with us and the burden continues to fall on areas of past heavy industry, from Tyneside and Dunbartonshire in the north, to the south, with places like Barking and Dagenham and Newham in inner London still featuring.
“The increase in the number of women impacted by mesothelioma is a major concern and, while broadly in line with expectations, it makes for uncomfortable reading, with a recent study having shown that women are less likely than men to come forward once diagnosed with asbestos-related disease.
“It is the responsibility of all of us not only to support those exposed to asbestos and living with the consequences, but to do all we can by raising awareness and backing calls to remove all asbestos from our public buildings, to ensure these figures do finally start to fall.”