May 19, 2022

CDC Highlights Increase in Mesothelioma Deaths Among Women

Mesothelioma deaths among women increased significantly over the last 20 years even as asbestos use declined, according to a new report published in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). The report states that the annual number of women who died from malignant mesothelioma increased by approximately 25 percent from 1999, when there were 489 deaths, to 2020, during which 614 deaths were recorded. Malignant mesothelioma was listed as the underlying cause of death for more than 12,000 women during 1999–2020.

Occupational exposure to asbestos is most often recognized among men in industrial settings such as construction, where women are less likely to be employed. But women can be exposed to asbestos indoors when older building materials containing asbestos are present or indirectly via take-home exposures from family members who were exposed to asbestos fibers in workplaces outside the home. Other exposures may occur when previously installed asbestos-containing materials are disturbed during maintenance or renovation, or when activities such as sweeping or cleaning cause settled fibers to resuspend in the air.

Information about industry and occupation was available for 567 of the mesothelioma deaths among women in 2020. The industry groups with the highest numbers of mesothelioma deaths were healthcare and social assistance, education services, and manufacturing, while the occupations with the most deaths were homemakers, elementary and middle school teachers, and registered nurses.

The report stresses the importance of maintaining efforts to limit exposure to asbestos fibers, including among women.

“Ensuring future decreases in mortality because of malignant mesothelioma will require meticulous control of exposures in activities such as ship and building renovation and demolition, and in asbestos remediation and disposal,” the report says.

The full MMWR report is available from CDC’s website.