THREE Hampshire areas rank in the top ten for men dying after being exposed to asbestos years ago.

Southampton, Gosport, and Portsmouth have the highest numbers of mesothelioma deaths in men in the country.

It is a "dreadful legacy”, according to lawyers at Irwin Mitchell, who have an office in the city centre.

The links to shipbuilding in these areas is likely to be responsible for the high death rate.

The report, from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), a regulator for workplace health and safety, says that the cancer develops around 30 years after exposure.

This means that most mesothelioma deaths today are due to exposures in the widespread industrial use in the 1950s to 1970s.

Some jobs are recorded more frequently than expected on death certificates of men now dying from the cancer - and these are jobs associated with construction and industries connected with shipbuilding, such as metal plate workers.

The cancer affects the lining of the lung or abdomen.

It is nearly always fatal, and often kills within a year of symptoms beginning.

The report used standard mortality ratios, which compares recorded mesothelioma deaths to how many people would be normally expected to die in the area.

Southampton has a mesothelioma standard mortality ratio of 222.

Adrian Budgen, head of the asbestos-related disease team at Irwin Mitchell, said: “Sadly, we deal with many families affected by asbestos-disease and it’s important to remember that, behind these numbers, are real people and families who have been left devastated by the dreadful legacy of asbestos.

“The increase in the number of women impacted by mesothelioma is a major concern and, while broadly in line with expectations, it makes for uncomfortable reading, with a recent study having shown that women are less likely than men to come forward once diagnosed with asbestos-related disease.

“It is the responsibility of all of us not only to support those exposed to asbestos and living with the consequences, but to do all we can by raising awareness and backing calls to remove all asbestos from our public buildings, to ensure these figures do finally start to fall.”

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