Scand J Work Environ Health 2005;31 suppl 2:27-30    pdf

Asbestos hazard in the Swedish construction industry—recent trends in mesothelioma incidence

by Engholm G, Englund A

Objectives The aim of this study was to analyze the incidence of pleural tumors among various categories of Swedish construction workers and to determine to what extent its change over time differs from that of the general male population.

Methods Traditional methods have been used to study cancer incidence through 1998 in a cohort comprising 370 165 male workers examined in 1971–1992 by Bygghälsan, an organization at the time providing nationwide occupational health service. Incidence was assessed by linkage to the national cancer register.

Results Swedish construction workers, particularly those heavily exposed to asbestos, had an excess incidence of pleural tumors in 1975–1998 [standardized incidence ratio (SIR) 3.16, 95% confidence interval (95% CI) 2.55–3.88]. The excess declined with subsequent follow-up periods and birth cohorts with the exception of the most recent period (SIR 3.83, 95% CI 2.64–5.38) and those borne in the 1930s.

Conclusions A possible decline in pleural tumors among men following the cessation of asbestos use 25 years earlier in the population at large may not be applicable to an end-user sector like construction work. In occupations charged with repairing and refurbishing work, there may even have been an increase lately.