Mesothelioma Facts & Statistics

Annually 2,000 to 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare, aggressive cancer caused almost exclusively by asbestos exposure. More than 10,000 cases are reported worldwide each year.

Types of Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma may be benign or malignant. The benign form is not cancerous whereas malignant mesothelioma is diagnosed when cancerous cells are present.

Malignant mesothelioma affects a membrane that lines many of the body's cavities, known as the mesothelium. The mesothelium is comprised of mesothelial cells which, in the case of mesothelioma, become abnormal and divide rapidly. This form of cancer can attack the mesothelial lining of the lungs (pleura), abdominal cavity (peritoneum), heart (pericardium) or testicles (tunica vaginalis). The four forms of mesothelioma are named for the areas the disease affects: pleural, peritoneal, pericardial and testicular mesothelioma. Pleural mesothelioma is the most common form of the cancer, followed by peritoneal mesothelioma. Pericardial and testicular mesothelioma are the rarest forms of the disease, with only 100 cases of testicular mesothelioma recorded.

Causes of Mesothelioma

Asbestos exposure is generally accepted as the primary cause of mesothelioma. Exposure occurs when asbestos fibers are inhaled or ingested into the body where they can become lodged in organs or the body's cavities. Overtime the fibers can cause inflammation and infection that can lead to the development of an asbestos-related disease such as mesothelioma.

Typical Mesothelioma Patients

Nearly 80 percent of patients diagnosed with mesothelioma can directly link asbestos exposure to a jobsite where asbestos fibers were present. The disease affects males more often than females and the average age of a mesothelioma patient is 65 years old. Many mesothelioma patients worked in industries that widely used asbestos, such as the construction industry. Those who served in the U.S. Navy or worked as a shipbuilder are also common mesothelioma patients. Veterans comprise 30 percent of all mesothelioma cases.

The reason mesothelioma is so rare in younger people is due to the lengthy latency period associated with the disease. Patients do not typically demonstrate symptoms of mesothelioma until 20 to 50 years after initial exposure to asbestos occurred.

Prognosis and Survival

Unfortunately prognosis for many mesothelioma patients is generally poor. Survival rated throughout the last five years has been 10 to 11 months following a mesothelioma diagnosis. This is due to the amount of time it takes for patients to demonstrate symptoms of mesothelioma, which often results in a late diagnosis. This allows the disease to progress to later stages of development, making treatment more difficult.

The reported five-year survival rate for patients with mesothelioma is approximately 10 percent. The one-year survival rate is approximately 40 percent. However, improved diagnostic tools and advanced treatments continue to surface, and stories of mesothelioma survivors continue to instill hope in mesothelioma patients and their loved ones. offers a comprehensive packet about mesothelioma to patients interested in learning more about the cancer and treatment options. To receive your packet overnight, please fill out the packet request form on this page.

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