Newly released Health and Safety Executive (HSE) statistics reveal a continued decline in mesothelioma deaths across Great Britain in 2021, marking a significant step in the ongoing reduction of this fatal cancer linked to asbestos exposure. The latest figures, which provide insights into Health and Safety Statistics published by the HSE in 2023, offer valuable insights into the evolving landscape of mesothelioma cases.
Mesothelioma, a cancer known for its lengthy latency period following asbestos fiber inhalation, has been the subject of concern due to its rapid fatality upon symptom onset. The report underscores that annual deaths in Britain related to mesothelioma have surged over the past half-century, predominantly due to past occupational asbestos exposures, particularly between 1950 and 1980.
The statistics reveal a total of 2,268 mesothelioma-related deaths in Great Britain in 2021. This number marks a decline of 302 fatalities compared to the previous year's toll of 2,570. Notably, the 2021 figure is substantially lower than the average of 2,520 deaths per year recorded between 2012 and 2019.
Experts suggest that the considerable decrease in deaths in 2021 aligns with earlier projections, which anticipated a gradual decline in annual fatalities throughout the 2020s. However, fluctuations in the data for 2020 and 2021 might be attributed to various factors associated with the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Gender-specific analysis reveals that 1,867 male deaths were recorded in 2021, as opposed to 2,103 in 2020, and an average of 2,107 deaths annually between 2012 and 2019. Correspondingly, there were 401 female deaths in 2021, a drop from 467 in the previous year and an average of 416 deaths per year over the 2012-2019 period. The report predicts that female mesothelioma-related deaths will likely continue to range between 400 and 500 per year throughout the 2020s.
While acknowledging the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the 2020 and 2021 figures, the report cites potential factors such as direct effects of COVID-19 on individuals with mesothelioma, indirect effects on healthcare services, and disruptions in death recording and certification systems.
Men who were employed in the construction industry during the period of extensive asbestos use are particularly vulnerable to mesothelioma due to their higher likelihood of exposure.