New research brings much needed attention to asbestos-related cancer in the Armed Forces

A new study carried out by researchers at the University of Sheffield and funded by national cancer charity, Mesothelioma UK, has detailed some of the experiences of, and support required for armed forces personnel and military veterans with asbestos-related cancer.
The Military Experiences of Mesothelioma Study (MiMES) aims to explore the prevalence of asbestos-related cancer, mesothelioma among British armed forces veterans, to understand their experience and health/support needs, and to identify how health and legal professionals, and support agencies can best meet the needs of this group.
2,700 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in the UK each year and while the incidence among UK military veterans remains unknown, eight veterans per month claim war pensions due to a diagnosis of mesothelioma.
The report identified the following key messages for healthcare and legal professionals and other support agencies:
1. Assumptions regarding who has been exposed to asbestos while in the armed forces should be challenged and awareness of the risk of exposure should be raised
2. Occupational history taking requires skill and sensitivity for patients with an armed forces background
3. Veterans’ stoic approach may disguise their physical and emotional needs
4. Veterans require access to experts with experience of navigating the relevant health, legal and military systems
5. It is important to recognise and understand the perspective and support needs of family members
6. Veterans living with mesothelioma may prefer to support, and be supported by, other veterans
7. Some veterans see inequalities between their experience of living with mesothelioma and that of civilians
8. There is a lack of awareness regarding asbestos exposure in the armed forces and concern about ongoing asbestos risk
The full report can be downloaded from

Hilary Meredith