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Report Finds Mesothelioma “Grossly Under-Recognized” in Spain

european buildingsThe newly-published study, was conducted by the Ministry of Health in Madrid and the Department of History of Science at the University of Granada. According to the report, although asbestos-related occupational cancers like mesothelioma were added to the Spanish list of occupational diseases in 1978, “there are no full accounts of compensated cases since their inclusion”.

The goal of the study was to analyze the number of asbestos-related cancers that had been recognized as stemming from patients’ occupations. The researchers analyzed the incidence of mesothelioma by year, economic activity, and occupation and compared the mortality rates of mesothelioma and work-related lung cancer to rates in the rest of Europe.

The study found that, between 1978 and 2011, 164 asbestos-related occupational cancers were recognized in the country – an average rate of 0.08 cases per 100,000 employees. Given that the case rate of mesothelioma was higher in every other EU country, and as high as 7.32 per 100,000 employees in Norway, the researchers conclude that the problem of mesothelioma is seriously under-estimated and under-compensated in Spain.

“Under-recognition rates were an estimated 93·6% (males) and 99·7% (females) for pleural mesothelioma and 98·8% (males) and 100% (females) for bronchus and lung cancer,” concludes Montserrat Garcia-Gomez of the Ministry of Health, one of three authors on the paper. Dr. Garcia-Gomez and his colleagues are calling for more investigation of work-related mesothelioma and lung cancer cases for a better understanding of the impact of asbestos on the country’s health.

Asbestos has seriously impacted the health of many European countries. As in the U.S., asbestos was widely used as an insulation and building material from as early as the 1920s until the 1970s and 1980s when it was publically connected to mesothelioma. While the incidence of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses is slowly declining in the U.S., it continues to rise in many countries with peaks not expected until 2020 or later. The UK and Australia currently have the world’s highest per-capita mesothelioma rates.


Garcia-Gomez, M, et al, “Asbestos-related occupational cancer compensated under the Spanish national Insurance System, 1978-2011”, International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, October 21, 2014, Epub ahead of print

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