Researcher Leif Åge Strand at the Cancer Registry of Norway has studied incidence and death from cancer among former Navy servicemen. Despite removing asbestos during renovation of marine vessels during the 1980s one can still expect more cases of mesothelioma (pleural) caused by asbestos among marine servicemen, says Strand. This is due to the time interval being long, from exposure, until a cancer diagnosis is known; known as the latency period.
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Exposure to asbestos is an important cause of mesothelioma (pleural). Earlier, asbestos was used in heat and sound insulation and fire protection on the marine vessels. Due to cancer risk, the asbestos was removed under replacement and overhauling of vessels during the 1980s. The last ones were five frigates around 1987.
Aproximately 11 500 officers, under officers and recruits have been in service on Norwegian marine vessels from 1950 to 1987. All of them may have been exposed to asbestos. A six doubled risk for mesothelioma (pleural) among personnel in the machine room was shown in this period.
The latency time, i.e. time from employment started in the machine room to diagnosis, varied from 28 to 48 years (average 48 years). This shows that cancer risk is due to “old sins” as the asbestos has long time been removed yet one can still expect to find several cases of mesothelioma among marine personnel in the coming years. This is due to the long latency period which can be up to 70 years.