Baby Boom Carpenters at Greatest Risk of Developing Asbestos-related Cancer
04 March 2009 - One in 17 British carpenters born in the 1940s will die of mesothelioma - a cancer of the lining of the lung caused by asbestos - according to new research published in the British Journal of Cancer.
In the largest global study of its kind, the researchers calculated that men born in the 1940s who worked as carpenters for more than 10 years before they reached 30 have a lifetime risk for mesothelioma of about one in 17.
For plumbers, electricians and decorators born in the same decade who worked in their trade for more than 10 years before they were 30, the risk is one in 50 and for other construction workers one in 125.
For every case of mesothelioma, asbestos also causes about one case of lung cancer so the overall risk of asbestos related cancer for this particular group of carpenters is about one in 10.
The risk of mesothelioma for the rest of the UK population who haven’t experienced these occupational exposures is about one in 1,000 and these apparently unexposed cases account for 60 per cent of all mesotheliomas in women** and 15 per cent in men.
Professor Julian Peto, Epidemiologist and lead researcher based at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and The Institute of Cancer Research, said: “The UK has the highest death rate from mesothelioma in the world. The risk is highest in people who were exposed to asbestos before age 30. By getting information on all the jobs people had ever done we have shown that the risk in some occupations, particularly in the building industry, is higher than we previously thought.”
The use of brown asbestos in the UK continued into the 1980s, and carpenters often cut and drilled brown asbestos insulation board with power tools. The researchers believe this was a major factor underlying Britain’s mesothelioma epidemic.
There are just over 2,100 people diagnosed with mesothelioma in the UK each year with about five times as many cases in men as in women.