A decade of malignant mesothelioma surveillance in Korea

Am J Ind Med. 2012 Oct;55(10):869-75. doi: 10.1002/ajim.22065. Epub 2012 Apr 27.


Background: The objectives of this study were to examine trends in mesothelioma incidence over a decade and to identify histories of asbestos exposure among cases in Korea.

Methods: In 2001, The Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency organized a nationwide cardiopulmonary pathology group and established a malignant mesothelioma surveillance system covering all general hospitals in Korea. Mesothelioma cases were reported to this surveillance system with information about age, gender, location, occupational history, asbestos exposure environment, date of diagnosis, diagnostic method, histopathologic subtype, occurrence site, and other clinical information. Additionally, an epidemiological survey was conducted using a structured verbal questionnaire to allow further evaluation of asbestos exposures.

Results: A total of 399 cases of malignant mesothelioma were reported in the last decade, translating to approximately 40 annual cases, and an annual average incidence rate of 0.83 cases per million. Of the 152 patients interviewed by occupational physicians, 56 had occupational asbestos exposure histories (36.8%). Their occupations and industries included construction (19.7%), automobile repair (5.9%), asbestos textile, shipbuilding and repair, refinery work, boiler making, and asbestos cement work. Another 31 patients had environmental asbestos exposure histories.

Conclusions: Surveillance data indicate that malignant mesothelioma incidence in Korea is, thus far, lower than that of other developed countries, and that construction and environmental asbestos exposure were the main identifiable causes of malignant mesothelioma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Asbestos / toxicity*
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Mesothelioma / epidemiology*
  • Mesothelioma / etiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Population Surveillance / methods*
  • Republic of Korea / epidemiology
  • Risk Assessment / methods
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult


  • Asbestos