OBJECTIVE: To investigate if the preventive measures taken to reduce the occupational exposure to asbestos have resulted in a decreased incidence of pleural mesothelioma in Sweden. METHODS: The incidence of pleural mesothelioma between 1958 and 1995 for birth cohorts born between 1885 and 1964 was investigated. The cases of pleural mesothelioma were identified through the Swedish Cancer Register. RESULTS: In 1995, around 80 cases of pleural mesothelioma could be attributed to occupational exposure to asbestos. There is an increasing incidence in more recent birth cohorts in men. The incidence was considerably higher in the male cohort born between 1935 and 1944 than in men born earlier. CONCLUSIONS: The annual incidence of pleural mesothelioma attributable to occupational exposure to asbestos is today larger than all fatal occupational accidents in Sweden. The first asbestos regulation was adopted in 1964 and in the mid 1970s imports of raw asbestos decreased drastically. Yet there is no obvious indication that the preventive measures have decreased the risk of pleural mesothelioma. The long latency indicates that the effects of preventive measures in the 1970s could first be evaluated around 2005.