Asbestos has been recognised as an important risk factor for lung cancer for many years. However, there are a number of other agents that can cause the disease - most importantly, tobacco smoke - and lung cancers resulting from asbestos exposure are clinically indistinguishable from those caused by these other agents. This means that the total number of asbestos related lung cancers has to be derived from statistical estimates based on evidence from epidemiological studies rather than direct counting of individual cases.
- It is likely that there are around as many asbestos related lung cancer deaths in Great Britain annually as there are mesothelioma deaths. There were 2156 mesothelioma deaths in 2007.
- There were 240 recorded new cases of disablement in 2008 due to asbestos-related lung cancer and 79 reports of lung cancer in the THOR scheme, not all of which were asbestos-related. These numbers are substantially lower than the likely annual total number of deaths inferred from the number of mesotheliomas.