By Jorge Sirgo
The latest annual federal data on mesothelioma diagnoses in the United States became available on April 15, 2016. The data reports on mesothelioma diagnoses during 2013, as determined from “cancer registries” from a sampling of some hospitals in the United States.
The data arises from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (“SEER”) Program of the National Cancer Institute. The report is more technically described as the 1973-2013 SEER Research Incidence data (November 2015 submission). SEER collects data on cancer cases from various locations and sources throughout the United States. Data collection began in 1973 with a limited amount of registries and continues to expand to include even more areas and demographics today.
The data in 2013 reflect modest changes from 2012, but appear to support the trends previously identified in the data.
The SEER 9 database (the database with registry information collected since 1973) shows that the overall rate of mesothelioma diagnoses has been falling since the early 1990s. The rate trend differs, however, by sex. While the rate of male mesothelioma diagnoses has been falling since the early 1990s, the rate of female mesothelioma diagnoses appears to remain constant. See the figure below to review the trends.
The rates above are used to extrapolate from the sample to an estimate of the population of mesothelioma diagnoses. The SEER incidence data are represented below in the following chart:
Overall, the data indicate the estimated number of mesothelioma diagnoses is down from 3,174 in 2012 to 2,828 in 2013. Estimated male mesothelioma diagnoses is down from 2,405 in 2012 to 2,169 in 2013. Estimated female mesothelioma diagnoses decreased from 769 in 2012 to 659 in 2013. The data does not distinguish between pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma diagnoses. The declining trend in rates noted above for overall and male diagnoses can be translated into potential declining incidence. However, the relatively constant rate of female mesothelioma diagnoses (combined with increasing population, longevity, etc.) appear to show increasing female incidence of mesothelioma diagnoses.
The decline in the rates and point estimates can be examined further by drilling down to the registry level.
There are three noteworthy declines in the registry-level rate:
• Connecticut drops from 1.31 to 0.86 (-34%)
• Hawaii drops from 0.63 to 0.36 (-43%)
• New Mexico drops from 1.06 to 0.71 (-33%)
The overall SEER 9 rate declines from 0.94 to 0.81 between 2012 to 2013 (-14%). Excluding the three registries noted above, the overall rate declines from 0.89 to 0.85 between 2012 to 2013 (-4%). On the surface, it would appear these 3 registries are driving the drop observed in the overall rate.
However, while the decreases of the 3 registries noted above are relatively large, the 95% confidence intervals suggest they are not statistically different (remember these are extrapolated estimates). For example, in Connecticut the 2012 estimate of 1.31 has a 95% CI of [0.97, 1.72] and in 2013 the estimate of 0.86 has a 95% CI of [0.60, 1.21]. These intervals overlap suggesting the true rates in these two years are very likely equivalent.
In addition, the low rates associated with 2013 are not unprecedented. Looking at their history back through 1973, these values have been present before.
Jorge Sirgo works with clients to estimate the liability from future bodily injury claims. Mr. Sirgo prepares valuations of the population of claims pending against the company to project the cost to settle future claims, evaluate insurance recovery, and estimate reserves. His bio can be found here.