Key Facts About Mesothelioma

Knowing key mesothelioma statistics helps you better understand this disease and spread awareness. Learning about the therapies to treat it can help you make more educated decisions about your health.

  • The four types of mesothelioma are pleural, peritoneal, pericardial and testicular.
  • Out of all people with heavy, prolonged exposure to asbestos, 2% to 10% develop pleural mesothelioma.
  • Symptoms of mesothelioma do not show until 20-60 years after asbestos exposure. That is when tumors have grown and spread.
  • The average life expectancy for mesothelioma patients is 12 to 22 months.
Quick Fact
Our information comes from medical journals and cancer research organizations. As well as the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program.

Who Is Most at Risk of Mesothelioma?

Men older than 65 with a blue-collar or military background are most at risk. That’s because blue-collar industries and all branches of the U.S. military used asbestos products. But anyone with a history of asbestos exposure is at risk.

Occupations at Greatest Risk of Asbestos Exposure

  • Chemical refining
  • Construction
  • Firefighting
  • Manufacturing
  • Military service
  • Power generation
  • Shipbuilding

Secondary asbestos exposure is a risk for family members of asbestos workers. This exposure has caused mesothelioma in spouses and children of asbestos workers.

Mesothelioma Incidence by Demographic

Mesothelioma incidence describes the risk of developing mesothelioma cancer. Mesothelioma is 4.6 times more likely to affect men.

Mesothelioma Incidence by Gender

Bar graph displaying mesothelioma incidence by gender.
Men are far more likely to develop mesothelioma than women.
Source: SEER

Of all diagnosed patients, more than 90% are white. Hispanic diagnoses outnumber those of Black or Asian people.

Mesothelioma Incidence by Race/Ethnicity

Bar graph displaying mesothelioma incidence by race/ethnicity.
The overwhelming majority of mesothelioma cases develop in white people.
Source: SEER
Quick Fact
The risk of developing mesothelioma is 10 times higher for people older than 60 compared to those younger than 40.

How Long Does Mesothelioma Take to Develop?

Mesothelioma starts to develop 20 to 60 years after exposure to asbestos. The latency period is the gap between first exposure and appearance of symptoms..

Mesothelioma Latency Period by Gender

Timeline displaying mesothelioma latency period for men and women following asbestos exposure.

Average Latency Periods by Mesothelioma Type

Average Latency Periods for the Types of Mesothelioma
The latency period is shorter for peritoneal mesothelioma than pleural mesothelioma.
Source: Mesothelioma from Bench Side to Clinic

The average latency period for pleural mesothelioma is 30 to 60 years. For peritoneal mesothelioma, it is 20 to 40 years.

Researchers do not understand why the latency period is shorter for peritoneal mesothelioma.

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Where Does Mesothelioma Occur?

Most mesothelioma cases occur in the pleura, the tissue lining surrounding the lungs. About 20% of cases appear in the peritoneum, which is the lining of the abdomen.

In 1% of cases, this cancer forms in the lining of the heart, called the pericardium. Less than 1% of cases are in the tunica vaginalis, which is the covering of the testes.

Diagram showing the types of mesothelioma as a percentage of all cases
Asbestos usually enters the body through the lungs. That is why pleural mesothelioma is the most common type.
Source: SEER

Symptoms by Tumor Location

Mesothelioma symptoms vary depending on where this cancer forms. Early-stage symptoms are usually mild or nonexistent. This factor makes mesothelioma challenging to catch early.

Chart of different mesothelioma symptoms
The different types of mesothelioma share similar symptoms.
Source: American Society of Clinical Oncology

Mesothelioma Survival and Mortality Rates

Mesothelioma survival and mortality rates are similar. The number of people diagnosed with the disease each year resembles the number of annual deaths. The average life expectancy is around one year.

The prognosis for mesothelioma is generally poor compared to other cancers. But, the prognosis is better for certain types of mesothelioma. Half of the peritoneal patients who undergo aggressive treatment live longer than five years.

Survival Rate by Mesothelioma Type

Survival rates vary significantly among the different types of mesothelioma. Medical advances have made peritoneal mesothelioma easier to treat than pleural mesothelioma.

A 2015 study from Translational Oncology reveals a large difference in survival rates. Most patients survive a year after diagnosis. But peritoneal patients see longer survival rates.

Survival rates for each type of mesothelioma
More peritoneal patients live at least five years with the disease compared to pleural patients.

More survival rate data is available for pleural mesothelioma because it is the most common type. For example, researchers have analyzed pleural survival by stage of tumor progression.  

Median Survival Time by Pleural Mesothelioma Stage

Doctors sort pleural mesothelioma cases into stages to describe how far the cancer has spread. The mesothelioma stage at diagnosis affects the patient’s treatment options and prognosis.

Median Survival Time by Mesothelioma Stage
Mesothelioma Stage Median Survival Time
Stage 1 22.2 months
Stage 2 20 months
Stage 3 17.9 months
Stage 4 14.9 months
Source: Journal of Thoracic Oncology

Patients have more treatment options and a better prognosis in the early stages. As tumors progress, treatment options diminish and prognosis worsens. 

5-Year Survival Rates for Pleural Mesothelioma

The Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program tracks 5-year survival rates. Pleural mesothelioma has three groups: Localized, regional and distant stages.

5-Year Survival Rates for Pleural Mesothelioma
SEER Stage 5-Year Survival Rate
All SEER Stages 10%
Localized 18%
Regional 12%
Distant 7%
Source: SEER: 2010-2016

When compared to patients with distant tumors, those with localized tumors are more than twice as likely to live at least five years.

5-Year Survival Rate for Peritoneal Mesothelioma

The SEER program tracks and publishes survival rate data for pleural mesothelioma but not for the peritoneal type. This is likely because pleural cases far outnumber peritoneal cases. 

Researchers at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine evaluated 380 mesothelioma patients. They reported a five-year survival rate of 65.3% for peritoneal mesothelioma.  

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Survival Rates From Year of Diagnosis
Year(s) Peritoneal
1 year 91.6%
3 years 73.8%
5 years 65.3%
10 years 39.4%

Long-term survival is better in peritoneal cases because treatment is more effective.  

Mesothelioma Survival Rates by Demographic

Survival rates for mesothelioma by gender
The 5-year survival rate for men with pleural mesothelioma is about half that for women.
Source: Annals of Thoracic Surgery
Survival rates for mesothelioma by age
Younger people tend to survive longer with mesothelioma.
Source: SEER

Survival among women diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma is higher compared to men. The 5-year survival rate for men with pleural mesothelioma is 7.3% compared to 16.4% for women.

The five-year survival rate differs by race. In 2015, which is the most recent year for compiled race data, the five-year survival rate was 18.6% for Black people and 9.4% for those who are white.

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

Mortality Statistics for Mesothelioma

The mortality rate for mesothelioma is about 0.8 cases per 100,000 people. This is according to data collected from 1999 to 2020 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

  • From 1999 to 2020, a total of 54,905 Americans died from mesothelioma.
  • From 1999 to 2015, nearly 80% of those deaths occurred among men.
  • From 1999 to 2015, about 37% of deaths were people between 75 to 84 years of age.

The death rate for mesothelioma is close to the incidence rate, which is 0.7 cases per 100,000 people.  

Mesothelioma Death Rate by State, 1999-2015

The mesothelioma mortality rate varies throughout the United States. Higher rates exist in areas with a strong history of industrial work and manufacturing.

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

Data collected from 1999 to 2015 remains the most current mortality rate data available for mesothelioma by state.

Mesothelioma Treatment Statistics

Percentage of mesothelioma patients receiving each treatment
Chemotherapy is the most common treatment for mesothelioma.
Source: Lung Cancer

Mesothelioma treatment may involve surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Patients may also enroll in clinical trials to try emerging treatments such as immunotherapy.

Mesothelioma is a complex disease, and few doctors have experience diagnosing and treating it. Mesothelioma specialists offer patients the best options.

Key Stats About Mesothelioma Treatment
  • More than 80% of patients receive chemotherapy, the most common treatment for mesothelioma.
  • Chemotherapy may triple the survival rate of mesothelioma patients, showed a 2016 study of SEER data.
  • Less than 20% of pleural mesothelioma patients qualify for aggressive tumor-removing surgery.
  • Half of peritoneal mesothelioma patients who receive HIPEC surgery live longer than five years.

Research has shown improved survival with multimodal therapy. This approach combines two or more treatments.

A 2018 study presented at the eighth annual European Lung Cancer Congress showed a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation produced a one-year survival rate of 79.6% for pleural mesothelioma patients.

Combining surgery with chemotherapy is also effective for peritoneal mesothelioma. A 2018 International Journal of Hyperthermia study showed median disease-free survival was almost five years for peritoneal patients receiving HIPEC surgery. The median overall survival was more than eight years.

Only about 20% of pleural mesothelioma patients are eligible for aggressive tumor-removing surgery. Researchers are testing new drug regimens for those who do not qualify for surgery. These include drugs already used in lung cancer treatment.

Human studies, called clinical trials, give patients access to the latest breakthroughs in treatment. Researchers have conducted more than 300 clinical trials for mesothelioma worldwide.

Bar graph showing the number of mesothelioma clinical trials per top five countries.
No country conducts more mesothelioma research than the United States.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Mesothelioma Costs and Compensation

Average payouts from different types of mesothelioma compensation
The average payouts from mesothelioma trials, settlements and trust funds.
Source: Mealey’s Litigation Report
  • Costs: $60,000. National Cancer Institute statistics estimate the cost of lung cancer treatment at more than $60,000 for the first year. Mesothelioma treatment costs are comparable.
  • Claims: $1 to $2.4 million. The average mesothelioma trial payout is around $2.4 million, according to a 2016 Mealey’s Litigation Report. The average settlement ranges from $1 million to $2 million. A 2022 analysis from consulting firm KCIC shows 1,793 mesothelioma lawsuits were filed in 2021.
  • Trusts: $30 Billion. In 2016, the RAND Corporation’s Institute for Civil Justice reported asbestos bankruptcy trusts hold a combined total of more than $30 billion. These trusts have paid claimants roughly $20 billion since the late 1980s.

Additional Cancer Statistics Resources

Additional information and statistics are available from the following cancer resources.

More information is found at local hospitals, cancer centers and nonprofit cancer organizations.

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