Asbestos cancer toll will not peak until 2015

In collaboration with the Press Association

Almost 200,000 people in the UK could still get asbestos-related cancers from exposure in the 60s and 70s, according to experts.

Professor Julian Peto, who holds the Cancer Research UK Chair of Epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, estimated that 90,000 people would die from mesothelioma, and said that 30,000 had already done so.

And a spokesperson from the British Heart Foundation estimated that another 90,000 could die from non-mesothelomia asbestos-related lung cancer.

Exposure to asbestos causes two types of cancer. Mesothelioma - which affects the lining of the lungs and abdomen - and lung cancer. The symptoms can take many decades to emerge.

The lethal effects of asbestos led to its use being effectively banned in the early 1908s, but a generation of people exposed are still expected to develop cancer.

The number of people who are annually diagnosed with the disease is only expected to begin declining in 2015.

Speaking at a Science Media Centre briefing, Professor Peto said: "Mesothelioma is on a completely different scale from any other industrial cancer disease in the world.

"The highest risk group of all is carpenters. One in ten of all carpenters in Britain of that generation could be affected.

"Mesothelioma has already killed twice as many people as cervical cancer," he added.