Australia has one of the highest incidence rates of mesothelioma in the world. This rare and aggressive cancer has no cure, and between 700 and 800 people are diagnosed each year. The average time between diagnosis and death is around 11 months according to Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) analysis of all mesothelioma diagnoses and deaths recorded in the Australian Mesothelioma Registry (AMR) as at September 2018.
Mesothelioma is a form of cancer in the mesothelium—the protective lining on the inside of body cavities and the outside of internal organs, such as the lungs, heart and bowel. Despite most commonly occurring in the chest, mesothelioma is not lung cancer. It is generally accepted that the primary cause is exposure to asbestos (fibres/dust). Australia banned the use of all forms of asbestos in 2004. However, before this, it was used in more than 3,000 products in the construction industry, in industrial plants and equipment, and in ships, trains and cars (ASEA 2018). Its legacy means a large amount of asbestos still remains in buildings and other infrastructure, and thousands of different products containing asbestos are still in use today.