For families losing a loved one to malignant mesothelioma, the loss overshadows their universe. And many Kazan Law clients use part of the settlement we win for them towards medical research to help prevent and find a cure for mesothelioma for others. Malignant mesothelioma understandably occupies a very large place in their lives. But in terms of the world of medical research, malignant mesothelioma is considered a less prevalent disease in sheer numbers compared to other diseases such as lung cancer or breast cancer. Therefore, mesothelioma may garner less research attention from medical science research institutions with a result of fewer research projects underway.
But what if cases of malignant mesothelioma were going unrecognized? What if someone’s loved one’s death from malignant mesothelioma did not get counted to increase the total of mesothelioma deaths and help bring more attention to the need for more research for this insidious disease?
Accurate data about mesothelioma deaths over time also plays a key role in evaluating whether prevention measures put in place are effective.
That is why we found a new research paper of interest. Biomedical scientists working for ExxonMobil to monitor the health of petroleum workers wanted to study historical patterns of mesothelioma risk and mortality from the 1950s to the present. They found that until 1999, the International Classification of Diseases, the classification used to code and classify mortality data from death certificates, did not have a specific code for malignant mesothelioma. Until then, mesothelioma could be coded as lung cancer, pleural cancer or other respiratory or digestive tract cancers. That made it likely to underestimate the death rate from malignant mesothelioma. I discussed this problem in a paper we presented at the 2012 International Mesothelioma Interest Group meeting in Boston, Demonstrating the Inaccuracies of Death Certificates.
The scientists behind the new research developed a method for going back through death certificates to try to more accurately gauge the number of malignant mesothelioma deaths. They manually went through each death certificate looking for any mention of mesothelioma. They also checked each death certificate with state cancer registries which provide more specific information.
Publishing their findings in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, they recommend that other researchers try their “effective strategies for the identification and valid assessment of mortality due to mesothelioma.”