An epidemic of lung cancer caused by asbestos will sweep Europe, killing a quarter of a million men over the next 35 years, UK-based doctors have warned. "The figures are horrifying," says Julian Peto of the Institute of Cancer Research in London. The cancer, which used to be extremely rare, is becoming more common, he said. Deaths from mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lung caused by exposure to asbestos, are expected to climb from 5,000 a year in 1998 to 9,000 a year by 2018. The epidemic will peak around 2020 and then decline. Total mesothelioma deaths could exceed 250,000 by 2034, Peto and colleagues predict in a study published in a recent issue of Journal of Cancer .
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