Mesothelioma Statistics

Statistics from the American Cancer Society estimate 2,000 to 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma in the United States each year. The asbestos-related disease accounts for less than 0.3 percent of all cancer diagnoses in the country.

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This page features: 11 cited research articles

Facts About Mesothelioma

Knowing key mesothelioma statistics and facts about asbestos can help you better understand this rare disease and make more educated decisions about your health.

  • Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos.
  • There are 4 types of mesothelioma: Pleural, peritoneal, pericardial and testicular. Pleural is the most common type representing about 75 percent of all mesothelioma cases.
  • Out of all people with heavy, prolonged exposure to asbestos, 2 to 10 percent develop pleural mesothelioma.
  • Symptoms of mesothelioma usually do not show until 20-50 years after asbestos exposure, which is when tumors have grown and spread.
  • The average life expectancy for mesothelioma patients is 12 to 22 months.

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

  • Construction
  • Firefighting
  • Manufacturing
  • Chemical Refining
  • Power Generation
  • Shipbuilding
  • 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.

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 latency period diagram showing mean latency for men is 47.9 years and 53.3 years for women.
Mesothelioma latency period timeline

Mortality & Survival Rates of Mesothelioma

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

Mesothelioma Death Rates by State
Nearly every highly populated state shows a heavy death toll.

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.

mesothelioma 2-year and 5-year survival rate comparisons by stage at diagnosis
Records show a low five-year survival rate for mesothelioma patients, no matter what their stage at diagnosis.
Source: American Cancer Society

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

Most mesothelioma cases appear in the pleura (the tissue lining surrounding the lungs). A large fraction of cases appear in the peritoneum (the lining of the abdomen).

In very rare cases, the cancer forms in the pericardium (the lining of the heart) or the tunica vaginalis (the lining of the testicles).

diagram of mesothelioma types and percentage of all cases
Asbestos usually enters the body through the lungs, which is why pleural mesothelioma is the most common type.

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.

Graph displaying survival rates for Pleural and Peritoneal Mesothelioma since year of diagnosis.
The study data show that most patients survived a year after diagnosis, but longer-term survival rates were higher for peritoneal patients.
Source: Translational Oncology, 2015

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.

Symptom Pleural Peritoneal Pericardial
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

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.

Graph of the number of mesothelioma clinical trials per top five countries.
The United States remains a powerhouse for medical research.

Survival Rates with Traditional Therapy for Pleural Mesothelioma

Graph of 1-Year, 2-Year, and 3-Year mesothelioma survival rates with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
Chemotherapy and radiation can kill cancer cells left in the body after surgery.
Source: Annals of Thoracic Surgery, 2014

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)
  • CRS-207
  • 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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Registered Nurse and Patient Advocate

Karen Selby joined in 2009. She is a registered nurse with a background in oncology and thoracic surgery and was the regional director of a tissue bank before becoming a Patient Advocate at The Mesothelioma Center. Karen has assisted surgeons with thoracic surgeries such as lung resections, lung transplants, pneumonectomies, pleurectomies and wedge resections. She is also a member of the Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators.

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21 Cited Article Sources

  1. American Cancer Society. (2013, December 19). Malignant mesothelioma.
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  2. U.S. National Institutes of Health. (2014, October). Search of mesothelioma – Results on map.
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  3. Taioli, E., Wolf, A., Camacho-Rivera, M., & Flores, R. (2014, June 11). Women with malignant pleural mesothelioma have a threefold better survival rate than men. Annals of Thoracic Surgery, 98(3), 1020-1024. doi:
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  4. Cancer Research UK. (2014, July 10). Statistics and outlook for mesothelioma.
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  5. Neumann, V. et al. (2013). Malignant pleural mesothelioma. Deutsches Arzteblatt International, 110(18), 319-326. doi: 10.3238/arztebl.2013.0319
  6. Porpodis, K. et al. (2013, September).Malignant pleural mesothelioma: Current and future perspectives. Journal of Thoracic Disease, 5(Suppl 4), S397–S406. doi: 10.3978/j.issn.2072-1439.2013.08.08
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. (2012). Underlying Cause of Death 1999-2010 on CDC WONDER Online Database.
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  8. Robinson, B.M. (2012). Malignant pleural mesothelioma: An epidemiological perspective. Annals of Cardiothoracic Surgery, 1(4), 491-496. doi: 10.3978/j.issn.2225-319X.2012.11.04
  9. Weder, W., & Opitz, I. (2012, November). Multimodality therapy for malignant pleural mesothelioma. Annals of Cardiothoracic Surgery, 1(4), 502–507. doi: 10.3978/j.issn.2225-319X.2012.11.12
  10. Delgermaa, V. et al. (2011, June 15). Global mesothelioma deaths reported to the World Health Organization between 1994 and 2008. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 89, 716-724C. doi: 10.2471/BLT.11.086678
  11. Park, E. et al. (2011). Global Magnitude of reported and unreported mesothelioma. Environmental Health Perspectives, 119, 514-518.
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  12. Lucchi, M. et al. (2007). Four-modality therapy in malignant pleural mesothelioma: A phase II study. J Thorac Oncol., 2(3), 237-42. doi: 10.1097/JTO.0b013e318031d05c
  13. Pass, H., Vogelzang, N., & Carbone, M. Malignant Mesothelioma: Advances in Pathogenesis, Diagnosis and Translational Therapies. Springer: New York, 2005.
  14. Stayner, L., Welch, L.S., & Lemen, R. (2013). The worldwide pandemic of asbestos-related diseases. Annual Review of Public Health, 34, 205-216.
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  15. World Health Organization. (2017, August). Asbestos: Elimination of asbestos-related diseases.
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  16. Mazurek, J. et al. (2017). Malignant mesothelioma mortality - United States, 1999-2015.
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  17. Odgerel, C. et al. (2017). Estimation of the global burden of mesothelioma deaths from incomplete national mortality data. Occup Environ Med., 74, 851-858.
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  18. Ihemelandu, C. (2015, May). Iterative Cytoreductive Surgery and Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy for Recurrent or Progressive Diffuse Malignant Peritoneal Mesothelioma: Clinicopathologic Characteristics and Survival Outcome.
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  19. Faig, J. et al. (2015, February). Changing Pattern in Malignant Mesothelioma Survival.
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  20. Spaggiari, L. et al. (2014, June). Extrapleural pneumonectomy for malignant mesothelioma: an Italian multicenter retrospective study.
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  21. Dixon, L., McGovern, G. & Coombe, A. (2010). Asbestos Bankruptcy Trusts: An Overview of Trust Structure and Activity with Detailed Reports on the Largest Trusts. Retrieved from:

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Last Modified May 3, 2019

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