Relationship Between Occupation, Genetics and Pleural Mesothelioma Among Swedish Cohort

In a recently published article in the European Journal of Cancer, researchers at the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg, Sweden, discussed the interplay between occupational exposure to asbestos and genetics on the incidence of asbestos-related disease.[i]

Cases of pleural mesothelioma were abstracted from the Swedish Family-Cancer Database, a nationwide cohort which included 16.1 million Swedish inhabitants, born after 1931.

Results showed that those with no family history of mesothelioma, but who nonetheless worked around asbestos, were more than 3 times as likely (hazard ratio of 3.2 with a 95% confidence interval) to contract mesothelioma as those who had not. [ii]

However, the risk of pleural mesothelioma diagnosis was greater in those who also had a ‘first-degree’ relative with the disease (hazard ratio of 24 with a 95% confidence interval). ‘A first-degree relative is defined as a close blood relative which includes the individual's parents, full siblings, or children’.[iii]

In spite of this ‘drastic’ increase in risk, descendants of ‘first degree’ relatives with pleural mesothelioma, but without occupational exposure to asbestos, were less likely to develop malignant mesothelioma (hazard ratio of 1.6 with a 95% confidence interval). This infers that asbestos exposure is the predominant cause of mesothelioma.


[i] Alex Strauss, ‘Pleural Mesothelioma Risk: Genes and Exposure Both Play a Role’ (10 September 2018 Surviving Mesothelioma)> accessed 18 September 2018.

[ii] Familial risk of pleural mesothelioma increased drastically in certain occupations: A nationwide prospective cohort study, Kharazmi, Elham et al. European Journal of Cancer , Volume 103 , 1 - 6 <> accessed 18 September 2018.   

[iii] ‘First, Second and Third Degree Relative’ (BCBST) <> accessed 18 September 2018.