The good news is that researchers from the University of Sydney and the Cancer Institute of New South Wales say the number of mesothelioma cases in the country may finally have peaked.
Unfortunately, most mesothelioma patients still face an uphill battle, despite treatment advances.
History of Mesothelioma in Australia
Mesothelioma is a deadly lung-related cancer closely linked with asbestos exposure.
Pleural mesothelioma, the most common type, occurs in the lining around the lungs while peritoneal mesothelioma affects the lining of the abdomen.
Thousands of people who used to work in Australia’s large asbestos mines have since been diagnosed with mesothelioma, resulting in one of the world’s highest per capita rates of mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma Incidence Trends
The researchers studied patterns in the incidence, mortality, and survival of people diagnosed with either pleural mesothelioma or peritoneal mesothelioma in New South Wales between 1972 and 2009.
They found that the number of cases of pleural mesothelioma rose steadily until about 1994, but then began to level off. The number of new pleural mesothelioma patients has remained steady for about a decade.
Since 1999, the average number of peritoneal mesothelioma cases has remained relatively steady at about 11 each year.
Surviving Mesothelioma in Australia
Although the survival rates remained stable for both pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma, the researchers found that people with a particular subtype of mesothelioma had much higher odds of surviving for at least five years if they were diagnosed after 2002.
“Five-year relative survival in 2002-2006 was substantially higher for people with malignant pleural mesothelioma, epithelioid histological subtype (11.7% [95%CI 6.8-18.2%]) compared to all other non-epithelioid histological subtypes (6.9% [95%CI 5.0-9.1%]), a 70% difference,” notes lead study author Matthew J. Soeberg, a Research Fellow with the University of Sydney’s Asbestos Diseases Research Institute.
The researchers also confirmed what other studies have found – that female patients have greater odds of surviving mesothelioma than men do. In this study, the odds were nearly twice as good for women.
Soeberg, MJ, et al, “Patterns in the incidence, mortality and survival of malignant pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma, New South Wales, 1972-2009”, December 29, 2015, Australia and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, Epub ahead of print