Written By: Karen Selby, RN,
Last modified: October 15, 2021

What Is the Mesothelioma Death Rate in the US?

The mesothelioma death rate in the United States from 1999 to 2015 was around 8 deaths per million people, according to a 2017 report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

During that time period, a total of 45,221 deaths from malignant mesothelioma were reported in the U.S.

For comparison, the country with the highest age-adjusted death rate from 1994 to 2008 was the United Kingdom, with 17.8 deaths per million.

Understanding Death Rate Statistics and Other Stats

Death rate and mortality rate may sound different, but these statistics actually refer to the same thing: The number of deaths in general, or from a precise cause, in a specific group of people.

Nearly 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year in the United States. That represents 0.02% of all U.S. cancer cases. The death rate is close to the mesothelioma incidence rate because most patients with mesothelioma live around one year, which is not a good prognosis.

Another mesothelioma statistic to understand is the mesothelioma survival rate, which is the percentage of people who live one and five years after diagnosis. About 40% of mesothelioma patients survive at least one year.

CDC Database

The most recent information on asbestos-related death rates comes from CDC WONDER, an online database under the CDC. The database specifies the number of people who died from the disease over an 11-year period from 1999 to 2017.

Age-adjusted Death Rates

Because the latency period between the first exposure to asbestos and the diagnosis of a related cancer is usually between 25 and 50 years, the following death rates only include people aged 25 years and older. Death rates are age-adjusted according to the 2000 U.S. standard population.

Mesothelioma Death Rate by Gender

Women tend to live longer with mesothelioma than men. As a result, the death rate is lower in women than it is in men.

*Age-adjusted mesothelioma death rate for people 25 and older per 1 million population.

Death Rate by Age and Race

Asbestos cancer death rates vary greatly by age group. When sorted by 10-year age groups, the crude (not age-adjusted) death rate was highest among those between the ages of 75 and 84 at 72.4 deaths per million. The death rates for the groups between the ages of 25 and 34 as well as the ages between 35 and 44 were both fewer than one death per million.

  • The mesothelioma death rate is much higher among men. From 1999 to 2015, the age-adjusted death rate for men was 24.9 deaths per million, compared with 4.65 deaths per million for women.
  • The rate among men fell from 25.5 deaths per million in 1999 to 23 deaths per million in 2010. For women, the death rate fluctuated from 1999-2010, but remained close to this period’s average rate of 4.5 deaths per million.
  • The rate for whites is more than double that of any other race. From 1999 to 2015, the age-adjusted death rate among whites was 14.25 deaths per million. The second highest rate was observed in American Indians or Alaska Natives (5.96 deaths per million), followed by Blacks or African Americans (5.84 deaths per million) and Asians or Pacific Islanders (3.52 deaths per million).
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US Mesothelioma Deaths by Age, Sex, Race and Ethnicity, 1999-2015

Characteristics No. of deaths Death rate
Total 45,221 13.10
Underlying† cause 42,470 12.30
Age group
25–34 138 0.20
35–44 544 0.75
45–54 1,936 2.69
55–64 6,237 11.22
65–74 12,985 36.31
75–84 16,914 76.28
≥85 6,467 74.46
Male 36,093 24.94
Female 9,128 4.65
White 42,778 14.25
Black or African American 1,870 5.84
Asian or Pacific Islander 440 3.52
American Indian or Alaska Native 133 5.96
Hispanic 1,815 7.38
Non-Hispanic 43,316 13.46
Unknown 90
Source: CDC, 2017

According to the CDC’s data on mesothelioma deaths by age, gender and race:

  • The majority of people who died of asbestos-related cancer from 1999 to 2010 were between the ages of 75 and 84 (11,170 deaths), followed by ages 65 to 74 (8,637 deaths). There were only 91 mesothelioma deaths among those between the ages of 25 and 34.
  • Men are diagnosed far more often than women. A total of 23,784 men accounted for 80.2% of related deaths in the United States from 1999 to 2010.
  • By race, whites comprised nearly 95% of deaths from asbestos cancers in the 11-year period, with 28,639 deaths. Blacks and African Americans, the next largest racial group for mesothelioma deaths, comprised nearly 3.9% of all deaths with 1,149.
  • Asbestos cancer cases among males peaked from 2008 to 2010, with more than 2,000 cases reported per year. The CDC predicts the number of cases should be on the decline, with an expected return to background levels by 2055. Mesothelioma cases among women are expected to increase slightly.

Mesothelioma Deaths by State

According to the CDC report, mesothelioma death rates are highest in the Northeast, Northwest and Midwest.

U.S. map showing mesothelioma death rates by state
Mesothelioma death rates are highest in the Northeast, Northwest and Midwest.
Source: CDC, 2017

State Mesothelioma Death Rate, (1999-2017)

  • Maine – 1.7 deaths per 100,000
  • West Virginia – 1.4 deaths per 100,000
  • Pennsylvania – 1.3 deaths per 100,000
  • Washington – 1.2 deaths per 100,000
  • Montana – 1.2 deaths per 100,000

Other Factors Affecting Mesothelioma Mortality

Mesothelioma Type

The death rates for mesothelioma by type reflect the incidence rates of the types. More people die of pleural mesothelioma because of its higher incidence, which gives the pleural type a higher mortality rate per million.

Peritoneal mesothelioma is the second-most common type and its death rate is roughly half.

Characteristics No. of deaths Death rate
Total 45,221 13.10
Mesothelioma Type
Pleura 3,351 0.98
Peritoneum 1,854 0.51
Pericardium 74 0.01
Other 5,280 1.52
Unspecified 35,068 10.14
Source: CDC, 2017

In addition to mesothelioma type, the stage at which a patient is diagnosed also affects how long someone may live with mesothelioma. This may have an impact on death rate, but the CDC does not track this data.

The kinds of cells that make up tumors may shorten life expectancy by 200 days on average. While cell type may have an impact on the death rate, the CDC does not track this data.

Asbestos Use and Latency Period

There is a long latency period associated with asbestos-related diseases. Several decades usually pass before a person develops a related disease as a result of exposure.

This means that asbestos use from decades ago is now causing new cases of mesothelioma, lung cancer and other diseases.

When asbestos regulations were implemented in the U.S. in the 1970s, researchers predicted it would eventually lead to a decline of mesothelioma cases. Research generally indicates that the peak of incidence rates may have already passed in the U.S.

However, between 1999 and 2015, annual deaths increased by 5% — from 2,479 to 2,597 — in that span.

Regardless of fluctuation, mesothelioma mortality rates will likely decline in the coming years.

Improved Treatments

According to a 2016 study published in Clinical Epidemiology, first-line chemotherapy patients live an average of 7 months longer than patients who elect no therapy. Additionally, surgery offers an overall boost to survival, but researchers noted that might be attributed to the fact that surgical candidates tend to be in better health.

As mesothelioma treatments continue to improve, so may the life expectancies of people with mesothelioma. This in turn could positively impact on the death rate by helping people live longer with mesothelioma.

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