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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Mesothelioma – light at the end of a long tunnel?

Actuaries involved in general insurance will be very aware of the lingering effects of exposure to asbestos, and in particular the likely escalation in deaths from the mesothelioma cancer over the early decades of this 21st century. We heard of both bad and good news this month.

Actuaries at Tillinghast confirmed in response to an article in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) that as many as 100,000 are likely to die from this dreadful condition in coming years. Actuary Darren Michaels, said that these figures were ‘broadly in line’ with estimates from previous studies of mesothelioma.

Nevertheless, the BMJ paper is a stark reminder of the levels of mesothelioma, one of several different asbestos-related diseases and the most fatal of them, expected to hit developed countries. The paper asserts that one in every hundred men born in the 1940s will die from mesothelioma, and with a lag time between exposure and development of 25 years to more than 50 years, the death rate is continuing to increase.

Current mortality rates in the UK are 1,800 deaths per year, and this is expected to rise to 2,000 per year in the peak years of 2015 to 2002. The paper further suggests that the situation is similar in Europe, as well as Australia, which had the highest asbestos usage in the world. By contrast, the US mortality rates have probably peaked now, states the paper, because of ‘earlier awareness and action on asbestos imports’.

There may, however, be hope in that London’s Bart’s Hospital is an important centre for research into the causes and treatment of mesothelioma, run by doctors Robin Rudd and Jeremy Steele. We were privileged to attend a discussion organised by the Association of Run-off Companies (ARC) at which Dr Steele reminded us of the dramatic impact of research on other forms of disease such as leukaemia in children.

The programme of research in mesothelioma at Bart’s is funded entirely from charitable donations. meeting a current cost of £50,000 a year for the programme of clinical trials. This is an excellent cause deserving of support from insurers and actuaries, and readers can make a difference by making donations either at jeremy.steele@bartsandthelondon.nhs.uk or by post to the Bart’s Mesothelioma Research Fund, King George V Building, West Smithfield, London EC1A 7BE.