Australia's high rates of the rare yet deadly cancer mesothelioma are expected to remain for some decades as homes containing asbestos are renovated across the country, warn health experts.
A review of the experience of the disease - caused almost exclusively by the inhalation of asbestos - shows the incidence of fatal mesothelioma (MM) in Australia is among the highest in the world.
In 2015, the Australian Mesothelioma Registry (AMR) received 650 notifications of newly diagnosed MM; most patients (78 per cent) were men, and 82 per cent were over 65 years of age.
Western Australia has the highest incidence of MM in Australia because of the mining of crocidolite (blue asbestos) at Wittenoom Gorge from 1937 until 1966 and its widespread use in asbestos-cement and other products.
According to the paper published in the Medical Journal of Australia, the numbers of new cases of MM have probably peaked.
While the rates of MM are projected to decline the disease is expected to persist for some time, warn the authors led by Professor Bill Musk from Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Perth.
"The incidence of malignant mesothelioma commenced rising here in the 1960s, but the long latency between exposure to asbestos and the onset of disease (the risk increases continuously and exponentially after 10-15 years, with a mean latency of 30-40 years) means that the peak has only now been reached," the authors wrote.
"Given the continuing legacy of asbestos-containing materials in many Australian homes and buildings, there is increasing concern about people being exposed to asbestos when performing domestic tasks and renovations."