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Mesothelioma and employment in massachusetts: Analysis of cancer registry data 1988–2003


  • Research completed at: University of Massachusetts Lowell and Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
  • Disclosure Statement: The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

Correspondence to: Cora Roelofs, ScD, Department of Work Environment, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Kitson 200, 1 University Avenue, Lowell, MA 01854.




Cancer registries can be used to monitor mesothelioma cases and to identify occupations and industries previously and newly associated with mesothelioma-causing asbestos exposure by using standard registry data on the “usual” occupation and industry of the case.


We used the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health's Standardized Occupational Industry Coding Software to code 564 mesothelioma cases for occupation and 543 for industry of the 1,424 incident mesothelioma in the Massachusetts Cancer Registry from 1988 to 2003. Additionally, we coded the occupation and industry of 80,184 comparison cancer cases (35% of comparison cases in our database). These were used to compute Standardized Morbidity Odds Ratios (SMORs).


Seventeen occupations and 11 industries had statistically significant elevated SMORs for mesothelioma. Occupations and industries historically associated with mesothelioma remained elevated in these results. However, we also found statistically significant elevated SMORs for several occupations and industries for which there was previously weak or no association such as chemical engineers, machine operators, and automobile mechanics and machine manufacturing, railroads, and the U.S. Postal Service.


Incident cases of mesothelioma do not appear to be declining in Massachusetts, as legacy exposures to asbestos continue to produce cases in individuals involved in shipbuilding and construction. Exposures in occupations and industries not previously associated with mesothelioma also contribute cases. Cancer registries, with improved data collection, should continue to be monitored for mesothelioma cases and asbestos exposures. Am. J. Ind. Med. 56:985–992, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.