Background: The British mesothelioma register contains all deaths from 1968 to 2001 where mesothelioma was mentioned on the death certificate.
Aims: To present summary statistics of the British mesothelioma epidemic including summaries by occupation and geographical area.
Methods: Standardized mortality ratios (SMRs) were calculated for local authorities, unitary authorities and counties. Temporal trends in SMRs were also examined. Proportional mortality ratios (PMRs) were calculated using the Southampton (based on the 1980 standard occupational classification) coding scheme. Temporal trends in PMRs were also examined.
Results: The annual number of mesothelioma deaths has increased from 153 in 1968 to 1848 in 2001. Current deaths in males account for about 85% of the cases. The areas of West Dunbartonshire (SMR 637), Barrow-in-Furness (593), Plymouth (396) and Portsmouth (388) have the highest SMRs over the period 1981-2000. The occupations with the highest PMRs are metal plate workers (PMR 503), vehicle body builders (526), plumbers and gas fitters (413) and carpenters (388).
Conclusions: These data reinforce earlier findings that geographical areas and occupations associated with high exposure to asbestos in the past continue to drive the mesothelioma epidemic in Great Britain. However, the trends over time suggest a change in the balance of risk away from traditional asbestos exposure industries to industries where one could describe the exposure as secondary, such as plumbers and gas fitters, carpenters, and electricians.