Researchers in Turkey have released a sobering report on the real cost of mesothelioma in their country.
The article appears in the latest issue of Archives of Environmental & Occupational Health. It details the lives lost to asbestos cancer. It also talks about loss of productivity as a cost of mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma is a rare but virulent cancer that is resistant to most kinds of treatment. Turkey is a hotbed for mesothelioma because of the high levels of cancer-causing minerals in the soil. Some Turkish people also seem to have a higher genetic susceptibility to mesothelioma. This cancer is so common in some parts of Turkey that it is a popular place for mesothelioma research.
Why the Cost of Mesothelioma is so High in Turkey
Mesothelioma is usually caused by asbestos exposure. Many mesothelioma patients contract the disease because they worked around asbestos.
Turkey is a small country with a high per capita rate of mesothelioma. The cost of mesothelioma is higher in Turkey because of environmental asbestos. In some parts of Turkey, there is a high concentration of asbestos in the ground. There are also high amounts of another mesothelioma-linked mineral called erionite.
People who live near asbestos and erionite have a higher risk for mesothelioma. The cost of mesothelioma in terms of human life and lost productivity is highest in these regions.
How Much Does Mesothelioma Really Cost?
To estimate the cost of mesothelioma in Turkey, researchers started by counting the number of mesothelioma deaths. They subtracted each patient’s age at death from their expected normal lifespan. They called this number ‘years of life lost’ or YLL.
More than 5,600 Turkish people died early because of malignant mesothelioma. Fifty-seven percent of these were men and 42 percent were women. The men died a median of 16 years earlier than expected. The women died 19 years earlier.
To calculate the cost of mesothelioma in terms of productive years (YPLL), the researchers first disregarded deaths in people over 65. Men lost a median of 26 productive years and women lost 28.
Running the Numbers
The research team calculated that the cost of mesothelioma was $45,963 per person. It was higher in men than in women because of their higher earning potential.
“Malignant mesothelioma is associated with high YLL, YPLL, and economic burden in a country with environmental asbestos exposure in the rural areas,” they write.
Other researchers have also tried to calculate the cost of mesothelioma in their countries. A 2017 Canadian study came up with a figure of $831 million “in direct and indirect costs for newly identified cases of mesothelioma and lung cancer.” The figure was based on 2,331 new cases of occupational mesothelioma or lung cancer in 2011. It did not include existing cases.
“Our findings provide important information for…the merits of banning the mining of asbestos and use of products containing asbestos in countries where they are still allowed,” they wrote.
In the US, where asbestos is still legal, an estimated 2,500 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year. There is currently no cure for the disease.
Metintas, S, et al “Potential years of life and productivity loss due to malignant mesothelioma in Turkey”, April 13, 2020, Archives of Environmental & Occupational Health, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/19338244.2020.1747380?journalCode=vaeh20
Tompa, E, et al, “The economic burden of lung cancer and mesothelioma due to occupational and para-occupational asbestos exposure”, July 29, 2017, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, https://oem.bmj.com/content/74/11/816