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The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare released its ‘Mesothelioma in Australia 2018’ report in August. The Report outlines the findings from the Australian Mesothelioma Registry (AMR), an initiative that has been collecting information regarding mesothelioma since 2010.

A rare and aggressive form of cancer, mesothelioma is caused predominantly be exposure to asbestos­­ — a naturally occurring material that was used in building and insulation products and used widely throughout Australia. Mesothelioma affects the lining of the lung (pleura) or abdomen (peritoneum) and is associated with a short prognosis.

The findings of the Report reiterates that Australia has one of the highest incidence rates of mesothelioma in the world. It found that the disease killed 699 people in 2018, while each year approximately 700­-800 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma in Australia. Significantly, the report states that the number of mesothelioma cases has increased in recent decades.

Who is at Risk of Mesothelioma?

Assessing data from 2011-2018, the report found that males have been consistently more likely to be diagnosed with mesothelioma than females. This is likely because the majority of mesothelioma cases are caused by exposure to asbestos in workplace environments that are more commonly occupied by males.

Based on the AMR’s data, the average Australian with mesothelioma is male and exposed to asbestos in occupational and non-occupational settings, diagnosed around the age of 75 and lived for approximately 11 months following diagnosis.

Occupational and Non-Occupational Exposure to Asbestos

Historically, occupational exposure to asbestos has been dominated by asbestos mining, manufacturing and use of asbestos-containing materials.

In assessing occupational exposure to asbestos, the Report found, based on those diagnosed with mesothelioma from 2010-2019, that occupational exposure to asbestos was probable (81%) for those working in trades. This includes jobs in ‘building, engineering trades and telecommunications fields such as carpenters, joiners, bricklayers, builders, electricians, plumbers, boilermakers, welders, metal fitters/turners and other engineering machinists, and telecommunications technicians’.

Regarding non-occupational asbestos exposure, the Report found that the most frequent contexts in which exposure was found to be possible or probable included:

  • An undertaking of major home renovations
  • Living in a house that was undergoing renovations
  • Servicing car breaks or clutches (unpaid)
  • Living in the same home as someone with the job involving asbestos exposure who came home dusty; and
  • Living in a house made of fibro that was constructed between 1947-87.

The Number of Mesothelioma Cases may still be increasing

Between 1982 and 2017, the number of new cases of mesothelioma steadily increased—from 135 to 631 for males and 22 to 128 for females. To date, the highest overall number of cases (773) were those with a date of diagnosis in 2016.

The Report explains that while there was a decline in the AMR of mesothelioma cases in 2018, this is likely is likely due to delays in the AMR receiving notifications — the number of cases for 2018 is expected to rise during 2019 and subsequent years.

Survival rates lower than other cancers

The Report also outlined that, because of its aggressive nature, most cases of mesothelioma are sadly associated with a short prognosis.

The Report shows that between 1986–1990 and 2011–2015, mesothelioma’s impact on the person’s chance of still being alive 5 years after diagnosis oscillated between survival rates of 4.7% and 6.1%. This was found to be very low compared to other common cancers such as thyroid (96%), kidney (77%), stomach (30%) and lung (17%) from between 2011 to 2015. Additionally, this survival rate decreased with increasing age, from 13% for those aged 55–59, to 2.7% for those aged 75 and over.

It is important to remember that many factors can affect survival among people with mesothelioma. The Report states that survival rates can be influenced by a person’s age at diagnosis, overall health status, the type of mesothelioma they have, and the nature of the exposure to asbestos.

You can access the full Report by the AIHW here:

I have been diagnosed with mesothelioma. What do I do now?

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, we understand that this can be a difficult time and that making a claim for compensation can seem like an overwhelming process. However, it is important to seek legal advice quickly. It’s likely you could be entitled to compensation for your pain and suffering, medical expenses and loss of past or future income, amongst other things.

Given this is a very specialised area of the law, it is critical you obtain advice from a lawyer with extensive experience in the area. At Gordon Legal, we have Victoria’s most experienced asbestos team and the compassion and determination to get you and your family the justice you deserve. If you have any questions or concerns, or want to register your asbestos exposure with us, get in touch today on 1800 21 22 23 and let us help you.

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