Ambient Asbestos Fiber Concentrations and Long-Term Trends in Pleural Mesothelioma Incidence between Urban and Rural Areas in the United States (1973-2012)

Risk Anal. 2018 Mar;38(3):454-471. doi: 10.1111/risa.12887. Epub 2017 Sep 1.


Over the past 40 years, measured ambient asbestos concentrations in the United States have been higher in urban versus rural areas. The purpose of this study was to determine whether variations in ambient asbestos concentrations have influenced pleural mesothelioma risk in females (who generally lacked historic occupational asbestos exposure relative to males). Male pleural mesothelioma incidence trends were analyzed to provide perspective for female trends. Annual age-adjusted incidence rates from 1973 to 2012 were obtained from the SEER 9, 13, and 18 databases for urban and rural locations, and standardized rate ratios were calculated. Female rural rates exceeded urban rates in almost half of the years analyzed, although the increases were not statistically significant, which is in line with expectations if there was no observable increased risk for urban locations. In contrast, male urban rates were elevated over rural rates for nearly all years examined and were statistically significantly elevated for 22 of the 40 years. Trend analyses demonstrated that trends for females remained relatively constant over time, whereas male urban and rural incidence increased into the 1980s and 1990s, followed by a decrease/leveling off. Annual female urban and rural incidence rates remained approximately five- to six-fold lower than male urban and rural incidence rates on average, consistent with the comparatively increased historical occupational asbestos exposure for males. The results suggest that differences in ambient asbestos concentrations, which have been reported to be 10-fold or greater across regions in the United States, have not influenced the risk of pleural mesothelioma.

Keywords: Ambient; asbestos; mesothelioma; rural; trends; urban.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Asbestos / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Lung Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Lung Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • Mesothelioma / chemically induced*
  • Mesothelioma / epidemiology*
  • Mesothelioma, Malignant
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects
  • Pleural Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Pleural Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Registries
  • Rural Population
  • SEER Program
  • Sex Factors
  • United States
  • Urban Population


  • Asbestos