Mesothelioma Statistics

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Mesothelioma is a rare, asbestos-related cancer that forms on the protective lining of certain parts of the body, most commonly the lungs or abdomen. Symptoms, treatment and survival rates vary depending on the cancer’s location and other important factors. Learning key statistics about mesothelioma can help you better understand the disease and make more educated decisions about your health.

Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos exposure diagram

Asbestos Fibers

The primary cause of mesothelioma is inhaling or swallowing airborne asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral fiber.

Pie Chart

2 to 10%

of people with heavy, prolonged exposure to asbestos will develop pleural mesothelioma — the most common type.

11 Million

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates that 11 million people were exposed to asbestos between 1940 and 1978.

Most Common Ways of Being Exposed

  • Military Star IconMilitary
  • Can of Paint IconProducts
  • Occupational Worker IconOccupation
  • Toxic Chemical IconEnvironment

20-50 Years

for Symptoms to Develop

Mesothelioma symptoms typically appear several decades after an exposure to asbestos. The gap between the first exposure and the appearance of symptoms is called the latency period.

latency period diagram

Symptoms by Type

Symptoms vary depending on the cancer’s location. Mesothelioma can be challenging to diagnose because early symptoms are usually mild or nonexistent.

Symptom Pleural IconPleural Peritoneal IconPeritoneal Pericardial IconPericardial
Abdominal Distention
Abdominal Swelling or Tenderness
Loss of Appetite
Bowel Obstruction
Chest Pains
Couging up Blood
Difficulty Breathing
Feeling of Fullness
Fluid Buildup
Lumps Under Abdominal Skin
Lumps Under Skin of the Chest
Heart Failure
Heart Palpitations
Irregular Heartbeat
Night Sweats
Pressure on the Heart
Reduced Chest Expansion
Shortness of Breath
Weight Loss

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Each Year There Are

2,000 to 3,000

New Cases of Mesothelioma

Male Gender Icon


Because men are exposed to asbestos more often, they are 4.6 times more likely to be diagnosed with this cancer.

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95 percent of all mesothelioma patients are white. Hispanics are diagnosed more frequently than blacks or Asians.

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For people older than 60 years of age, the risk of developing the disease is 10 times higher than that of people younger than 40.

Where It Occurs

Mesothelioma types percentage chart Mesothelioma types percentage chart


1) Pleura


2) Pericardium

Less Than 1%

4) Tunica Vaginalis


3) Peritoneum

1) Pleura


2) Pericardium


3) Peritoneum


4) Tunica Vaginalis

< 1%

Mesothelioma Claimed More Than


Lives in the United States From 1999 to 2013

Mesothelioma Deaths by State, 1999-2013

Mesothelioma Death Rates Map
Icon of People that Died because of Mesothelioma

2,497 People

Died of Mesothelioma in 2013.

Treatment Options

Treatment for this cancer may involve surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Patients can also enroll in clinical trials to try experimental therapies.

Multimodal Therapy Diagram

Multimodal Therapy

Research has shown improved survival with multimodal therapy, an approach that combines two or more treatments. A 2007 study on four-modality therapy reported a median survival of 26 months.

Clinical Trials

Human studies called clinical trials give patients access to the latest breakthroughs in treatment. As of April 2015, researchers have conducted nearly 250 clinical trials for mesothelioma worldwide.

Top Five Countries for Mesothelioma Clinical Trials

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Statistics on the outcomes of many past patients give today’s patients a general idea of their outlook. On average, 40 percent of pleural mesothelioma patients survive at least one year after starting treatment. By year five, survival drops to 8 percent.

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Research shows that women diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma experience nearly three-fold better survival than men. One study reported that 13.4 percent of women survive for five years after treatment, compared to only 4.5 percent of men.

Elder Couple Icon


Overall, younger patients have a significantly higher survival rate than older patients. More than 50 percent of patients diagnosed before the age of 50 survive one year, while less than 33 percent of those 75 or older survive the same amount of time.

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Regardless of race, one-year survival is about the same. From three years on, survival is slightly worse for whites. National Cancer Institute data shows that five-year survival among whites is 7.6 percent, compared to 12.3 percent for blacks.

Survival by Stage

Doctors use a four-stage system to describe how far the cancer has advanced within the body. Patients diagnosed at stage I have the best outlook, while survival is worst at stage IV.


  1. American Cancer Society. (2013, December 19). Malignant Mesothelioma. Retrieved from
  2. U.S. National Institutes of Health. (2014, October). Search of Mesothelioma – Results on Map. Retrieved from
  3. Taioli, E., Wolf, A., Camacho-Rivera, M. and Flores, R. (2014, June 11). Women with Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma Have a Threefold Better Survival Rate Than Men. Annals of Thoracic Surgery. Retrieved from
  4. Cancer Research UK. (2014, July 10). Statistics and Outlook for Mesothelioma. Retrieved from
  5. Neumann, V., Loseke, S., Nowak, D., Herth, F. and Tannapfel, A. (2013, May). Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma. Deutsches Arzteblatt International. Retrieved from
  6. Porpodis, K. et al.. (2013, September). Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma: Current and Future Perspectives. Journal of Thoracic Disease. Retrieved from
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. (2012). Underlying Cause of Death 1999-2010 on CDC WONDER Online Database. Retrieved from
  8. Robinson, B. (2012, November). Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma: An Epidemiological Perspective. Annals of Cardiothoracic Surgery. Retrieved from
  9. Weder, W. and Opitz, I. (2012, November). Multimodality Therapy for Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma. Annals of Cardiothoracic Surgery. Retrieved from
  10. Delgermaa, V. et al. (2011, June 15). Global Mesothelioma Deaths Reported to the World Health Organization between 1994 and 2008. Retrieved from
  11. Park, E. et al. (2011). Global Magnitude of Reported and Unreported Mesothelioma. Retrieved from
  12. Lucchi, M. et al. (2007). Four-modality Therapy in Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma: A Phase II Study. Retrieved from
  13. Pass, H., Vogelzang, N. and Carbone, M. Malignant Mesothelioma: Advances in Pathogenesis, Diagnosis and Translational Therapies. Springer: 2005.
  14. Pass, H., Vogelzang, N. and Carbone, M. Malignant Mesothelioma: Advances in Pathogenesis, Diagnosis and Translational Therapies. Springer: 2005.

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