Knowing key mesothelioma statistics and facts about asbestos can help you better understand this rare disease and make more educated decisions about your health.
Statistics from the American Cancer Society show approximately 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma in the U.S. each year. The majority of these cases stem from asbestos, which is the primary cause of the disease.
National Institutes of Health statistics show 11 million Americans were exposed to asbestos between 1940 and 1978.
Annual U.S. asbestos use peaked at 803,000 metric tons in 1973, according to U.S. Geological Survey records. It declined to 1,700 metric tons by 2007.
Out of all people with heavy, prolonged exposure to asbestos, 2 to 10 percent develop pleural mesothelioma, the most common type of the asbestos-related cancer.
Who Gets Mesothelioma?
The typical mesothelioma patient is a man older than 65 with a blue-collar or military background. However, anyone with a history of asbestos exposure is at risk.
Occupations with Greatest Risk of Asbestos Exposure
- Chemical Refining
- Power Generation
- Military Service
Demographic Factors in Mesothelioma Incidence
Because men are exposed to asbestos more often, they are 4.6 times more likely to be diagnosed with mesothelioma. Of all diagnosed patients, 95 percent are white. Hispanics are diagnosed more frequently than blacks or Asians.
For people older than 60 years of age, the risk of developing the disease is 10 times higher than it is for people younger than 40.
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Latency Period of Mesothelioma
The gap between the first exposure and the appearance of symptoms is called the latency period. Mesothelioma symptoms typically appear 20 to 50 years after exposure to asbestos.
Mesothelioma is a complex disease, and very few doctors have experience diagnosing and treating it. Mesothelioma specialists offer patients the greatest hope.
Death Toll of Mesothelioma
- From 1999 to 2015, a total of 45,221 Americans died from mesothelioma.
- Nearly 80 percent of those deaths occurred among men.
- About 37 percent of those who died were 75 to 84 years old.
Mesothelioma Deaths by State, 1999–2013
Pleural Mesothelioma Survival Rates by Stage at Diagnosis
Doctors sort 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.
Data from the American Cancer Society reveal the link between staging and survival rates.
Demographic Factors in Mesothelioma Survival Rates
Research shows women diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma experience nearly three-fold better survival than men. One 2014 study reported 13.4 percent of women survive for five years after treatment, compared to only 4.5 percent of men.
The one-year survival rate is about the same for all races. From three years on, survival is slightly worse for whites. National Cancer Institute data shows five-year survival among whites is 7.6 percent, compared to 12.3 percent for blacks.
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 length of time.
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Where Mesothelioma Occurs
Mesothelioma Survival Rates by Site
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.
Symptoms by Site
Mesothelioma symptoms vary depending on where the cancer forms. Mesothelioma can be challenging to diagnose because early-stage symptoms are usually mild or nonexistent.
|Abdominal Swelling or Tenderness|
|Loss of Appetite|
|Couging up Blood|
|Feeling of Fullness|
|Lumps Under Abdominal Skin|
|Lumps Under Skin of the Chest|
|Pressure on the Heart|
|Reduced Chest Expansion|
|Shortness of Breath|
Benefits from Cancer Treatment
Mesothelioma treatment may involve surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Patients can also enroll in clinical trials to try experimental treatments such as immunotherapy.
Research has shown improved survival with multimodal therapy, an approach that combines two or more treatments. A 2007 study in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology reported a median survival time of 26 months when four therapies were combined.
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.
Survival Rates with Traditional Therapy for Pleural Mesothelioma
Combining surgery with chemotherapy is also effective for peritoneal mesothelioma. A 2015 study in the Annals of Surgical Oncology found 52 percent of patients live at least five years after surgery with hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC).
However, only about 20 percent of mesothelioma patients are eligible for aggressive tumor-removing surgery. For the rest, doctors are testing experimental drug regimens, including immunotherapy drugs already used in lung cancer treatment.
Immunotherapy Drugs Being Tested for Mesothelioma
- Pembrolizumab (Keytruda)
- Nivolumab (Opdivo)
- Ipilimumab (Yervoy)
- WT1 Vaccine
Mesothelioma Costs and Compensation
- Costs: $60,000The National Cancer Institute estimates the cost of lung cancer treatment at more than $60,000 for the first year. Mesothelioma treatment costs are comparable.
- Claims: $180,000The RAND Corporation estimated the median value for mesothelioma claims as $180,000 in a 2010 research report.
- Trusts: $30 BillionIn 2016, the RAND Corporation’s Institute for Civil Justice reported that asbestos bankruptcy trusts hold a combined total of more than $30 billion.
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Last Modified November 20, 2018
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