The UK is facing an epidemic of mesothelioma among workers
exposed to asbestos.
Writing in the British Medical Journal, doctors led by
cardiothoracic surgeon Professor Tom Treasure, of Guy’s Hospital, London, said
there are now more than 1,800 mesothelioma deaths a year in the UK, more than
one in 200 of all deaths in men and almost one in 1,000 in women.
But as exposure to asbestos in the UK continued until 1980,
the peak of the epidemic is still to come, and health professionals need a
strategy to manage these patients.
Treasure said: "There is nothing we can do now to
prevent it in workers exposed throughout the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. But we can
recognise it early, treat it actively, and learn about best treatment.
And George Brumwell, leader of UCATT, the construction
workers’ union, has warned the epidemic could be even worse than doctors’
predictions if there is any weakening of the restrictions on the use of
BMJ 2004;328:237-238 (01/04)