Latest Figures for Diseases Associated with Occupational Asbestos Exposure

The HSE has collated information about asbestos, below is a statistical breakdown.

 Asbestos Related Disease

There are four main diseases associated with inhalation of asbestos fibres.

  • Mesothelioma – a form of cancer mainly affecting the lining of the lungs
  • Asbestos related lung cancer
  • Asbestosis – a non-maligant scarring of the lung tissue
  • Non maligant pleural disease (diffuse pleural thickening and pleural plaques)

The latest figures for diseases associated with occupational exposure to asbestos many years ago, are as following*.

Deaths from mesothelioma ( Mesothelioma register 2013) – 2538

Deaths from asbestosis without mention of mesothelioma (Asbestosis register 2013) – 477

Newly assessed cases of asbestosis (IIDB 2014) – 985

Newly assessed cases of diffuse pleural thickening (IIDB 2014) – 425

Estimated number of cases of non maligant pleural disease reported to specialist physicians (THOR/SWORD 2014) – 580

*In addition it is estimated that there are about as many asbestos-related lung cancer deaths each year as there are mesothelioma deaths

Deaths from asbestosis (a form of pneumoconiosis caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibres) continue to increase in Great Britain, a legacy of heavy exposures to asbestos in the past.

The latest information shows:

  • In 2013 there were 516 deaths where asbestosis is likely to have contributed as a cause compared with 109 in 1978. (Asbestosis register).
  • There were 217 deaths in 2013 where asbestosis was specifically recorded as the underlying cause of death. (Asbestosis register).
  • There were 985 newly assessed cases for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit in 2014. (IIDB).
  • Annual numbers of newly assessed cases have fluctuated in recent years.

Asbestosis deaths and disablement benefit cases 1978-2014


Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that takes many years to develop following the inhalation of asbestos fibres, but is usually rapidly fatal following disease onset. Annual deaths in Britain increased steeply over the last 50 years, a consequence of mainly occupational asbestos exposures that occurred because of the widespread industrial use of asbestos during 1950-1980.

The latest information shows:

  • There were 2,515 mesothelioma deaths in Great Britain in 2014, a similar number to the 2,556 deaths in 2013, and 2,549 deaths in 2012.
  • The latest projections suggest that there will continue to be around 2,500 deaths per year for the rest of this current decade before annual numbers begin to decline.
  • The continuing increase in annual mesothelioma deaths in recent years has been driven mainly by deaths among those aged 75 and above.
  • In 2014 there were 2,101 male deaths and 414 female deaths.
  • There were 2,215 new cases of mesothelioma assessed for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB) in 2014 compared with 2,145 in 2013.
  • Men who worked in the building industry when asbestos was used extensively are now among those most at risk of mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma in Great Britain: annual deaths, IIDB cases and projected future deaths to 2030.

Asbestos related lung cancer

The overall scale of asbestos-related lung cancer deaths has to be estimated rather than counted. This is because asbestos is one of a number of factors, including smoking, that can cause lung cancer. Individual cases usually have no specific clinical signs suggesting a particular cause, and factors such as asbestos exposure and smoking often act together to increase the risk.

  • Research suggests there are probably about as many asbestos-related lung cancer deaths each year as there are mesothelioma deaths.
  • This implies there are currently in excess of 2,000 lung cancer deaths each year in Great Britain that can be attributed to past asbestos-exposure.
  • This estimate is uncertain, and since asbestos and smoking act together to increase the risk, it is affected by past smoking habits as well as asbestos exposure.
  • The ratio of lung cancers to mesotheliomas is expected to fall over time suggesting less than one asbestos-related lung cancer per mesothelioma in the future.
  • There were 285 cases assessed for disablement benefit in 2014. (IIDB).
  • There were an estimated 96 cases of occupational lung cancer reported by chest physicians in 2014. (THOR).
  • The much lower number of cases identified via IIDB and THOR highlight the difficulty in attributing individual cases to asbestos exposure.

Non-malignant pleural disease

Non-malignant pleural disease is a non cancerous condition affecting the outer lining of the lung (the pleura). It includes two forms of disease: diffuse pleural thickening and the less serious pleural plaques. A substantial number of cases continue to occur each year in Great Britain, mainly due to workplace asbestos exposures many years ago.

The latest information shows:

  • There were 425 new cases of pleural thickening assessed for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit in 2014 (IIDB).
  • The annual number has been fairly constant over the last 10 years, with an average of around 430 new cases per year (IIDB).
  • An estimated 580 new cases of non-malignant pleural disease mainly caused by asbestos were reported by chest physicians in 2014. A substantial proportion of these were cases of pleural plaques (THOR).
  • Pleural plaques are usually symptomless and are often identified in the THOR scheme when individuals have chest x-rays for other conditions.
  • For these reasons, there are likely to be substantially more individuals in the population with pleural plaques than those identified by chest physicians.

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