The Monfalcone area, in northeastern Italy, is a small industrial territory (population about 60,000), with a large shipyard. Between October 1979 and April 1992, ninety-two malignant mesotheliomas were diagnosed at the Monfalcone Hospital. The series included 84 men and 8 women, aged 42 to 89 years (median age 68 years). There were 89 pleural and 3 peritoneal tumors. Seventy patients (69 men and 1 woman) had worked in the shipyards; six were seamen, and four insulators. Five men had been exposed to asbestos in various industries; six women had histories of domestic exposure, and one woman had a history of possible environmental exposure. The latency periods (intervals between first exposure to asbestos and diagnosis of the tumor) ranged from 20 to 65 years (median 52 years). Latency periods among insulators were significantly lower than among shipyard workers, as well as lower than among the other categories (p<0.01). Lung asbestos bodies were isolated after chemical digestion in 73 cases at necropsy, and in two cases at surgery. In necropsy cases, asbestos body burdens ranged between 100 and 10,000,000 bodies per gram of dried tissue (median 11,000). Pleural plaques were observed at necropsy in 62 out of 73 cases, and in two cases at surgery.
In the time period we considered, the annual incidence rates for pleural mesothelioma were very high among male Monfalcone residents, being 189 per 100,000 among people aged 75 years or more.
On the basis of occupational data and of objective signs (lung asbestos bodies, pleural plaques), all the cases of the present series but one (that with possible environmental exposure) were considered as asbestos-related. The role of co-factors in the development of asbestos-related mesothelioma is suggested. © 1993 Wiley-Liss, Inc.