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Mesothelioma deaths increase

Our blogs for October are taking on a distinct Health and Safety theme. While the fatal injuries at work statistics may have fallen for the 2016/17 reporting period (see our previous blog), statistics reporting the deaths from mesothelioma in 2015 have shown a deadly upward trend.

Mesothelioma is a form of cancer most often associated with the inhalation of asbestos fibres. Although the use of all forms of asbestos was banned in 1999, it can take anything from 15-60 years for cancer to develop, meaning that the damage is often done decades before symptoms start to occur. The number of mesothelioma cases is steadily rising, due to the number of people, (especially in the construction industry and in particular the plumbing trade), who were exposed to asbestos between 1950-1980.  

According to information from the Health and Safety Executive:

  • There were 2,542 mesothelioma deaths in Great Britain in 2015, a similar number to the previous three years.
  • The latest projections suggest that there will continue to be around 2,500 deaths per year for the rest of this current decade before annual numbers begin to decline.
  • The continuing increase in annual mesothelioma deaths in recent years has been driven mainly by deaths among those aged 70 and above.
  • In 2015 there were 2,135 male deaths and 407 female deaths, similar to the annual numbers in among males and females in the previous three years.
  • There were 2,130 new cases of mesothelioma assessed for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB) in 2015 compared with 2,215 in 2014.
  • Men who worked in the building industry when asbestos was used extensively are now among those most at risk of mesothelioma.


Cancer Research UK estimate that 1 in 140 men and 1 in 710 women will be diagnosed with mesothelioma during their lifetime. Additionally their figures show that 94% of mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos fibres. This type of cancer is almost always fatal.

If you worked in manufacturing, construction or engineering from the post war period until the 1980s you could be at risk. Symptoms will depend on the type of mesothelioma diagnosed - pleural mesothelioma affects the chest, peritoneal mesothelioma affects your abdomen - and can include:

  • Pain in your chest or abdomen
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tiredness
  • Sweating and high temperatures
  • Coughing
  • Weight loss and lack of appetite
  • Swelling in the abdomen
  • Nausea and sickness
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Diarrhoea or constipation
  • Hoarse or husky voice
  • Some people have changes in the shape of their fingers and nails.


If you develop the condition due to asbestos exposure you may be able to claim compensation.

For more information on mesothelioma see:

Cancer Research UK  

Mesothelioma support groups

Health and Safety Executive statistics