Mesothelioma Statistics

Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer that kills thousands of people each year. Recent mesothelioma statistics suggest that nearly 110,000 people have and will be diagnosed from 2005 to 2050. The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) reports that only 10% of mesothelioma victims will still be alive five years after diagnosis. However, some patients have defied these numbers and lived for decades with this cancer.

Fact-Checked and Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Mark Levin

Key Mesothelioma Facts

If you have been diagnosed with malignant (cancerous) mesothelioma, you may not fully know how you developed the disease, why it’s dangerous, or what your treatment options are.

Mesothelioma statistics can help you and your loved ones better understand this rare cancer and what treatment options may be available.

Here are some important mesothelioma statistics: 

  • Most cases of malignant mesothelioma are caused by asbestos exposure, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). This cancer-causing mineral was once used in construction materials, insulation, and hundreds of other products.
  • There are 4 main types of mesothelioma depending on where the cancer develops in the body.
    • Pleural mesothelioma develops in the lining of the lungs (pleura) and accounts for about 70-85% of all cases.
    • Peritoneal mesothelioma starts in the lining of the abdomen (peritoneum). About 10-25% of patients are diagnosed with this type of mesothelioma.
    • Pericardial mesothelioma develops in the lining of the heart (pericardium) and makes up less than 1% of all cases.
    • Testicular mesothelioma is an extremely rare form of mesothelioma that develops in the lining of the testicles (tunica vaginalis). Only a few hundred cases have been reported.
  • Mesothelioma typically develops 10-50 years after exposure to asbestos fibers, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).
  • Mesothelioma symptoms — such as a dry cough, difficulty breathing, and unexplained weight loss — typically start off mild and gradually worsen over time.
  • Symptoms of mesothelioma may not even appear until the cancer has spread throughout the body, according to the Mayo Clinic.
  • Mesothelioma has no cure and is almost always fatal. However, some people diagnosed with this cancer have achieved long-term survivorship with medical treatments like surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.

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United States Mesothelioma Statistics

Mesothelioma is still a big concern in the United States.

  • About 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year in the United States, according to mesothelioma statistics from the ACS.
  • From 1999-2015, more than 45,000 people died from mesothelioma, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • Mesothelioma deaths among women are on the rise.
  • Asbestos — the main cause of mesothelioma — is still not completely banned as of 2023. The annual use of the mineral hit 803,000 metric tons in 1973 and dropped to 320 metric tons in 2021. 

Until asbestos use is banned in the United States, people are still at risk of developing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases like lung cancer.

Some recent studies indicate that mesothelioma incidence rates drop when a country bans asbestos. One recent study showed that an asbestos ban in Scandinavian countries resulted in about 12 fewer mesothelioma cases a year.

Who Is at Risk of Mesothelioma?

Anyone who has come in contact with asbestos fibers could be at risk of mesothelioma today. That said, some demographics (groups of people) have a higher risk of exposure than others.

Mesothelioma Statistics by Age

Age is an important mesothelioma risk factor. People 65 and older are more likely to develop mesothelioma since it usually takes 10-50 years for asbestos fibers to cause symptoms.

According to the ACS, the average age that people are diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma is 72 years old.

CDC data shows that roughly 94% of reported mesothelioma deaths occurred in people 55 and older.

Yet, mesothelioma can develop in people of any age — including young adults, teenagers, and even children.

  • In 2019, a 35-year-old man was diagnosed with pericardial mesothelioma after complaining of fever, chest pain, and a rapid heartbeat.
  • In 2015, Phoenix Children’s Hospital researchers reported on a 16-year-old with malignant peritoneal mesothelioma.
  • In 2006, an 11-year-old girl in France received a mesothelioma diagnosis. She required several surgeries and rounds of chemotherapy before the cancer went into partial remission.

Because of this, anyone who has been exposed to asbestos should be medically examined for possible health problems such as mesothelioma.

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Mesothelioma Statistics by Gender

According to the ACS, men are four times more likely to be diagnosed with mesothelioma than women. This is because men were more likely to work with asbestos products.

Approximately 85% of mesothelioma cases in men are connected to occupational asbestos exposure.

A 2022 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on mesothelioma in women found that:

  • From 1999-2020, 12,227 women died of mesothelioma.
  • The number of mesothelioma deaths in females per year increased 25%, from 489 in 1999 to 614 in 2020.
  • Based on available data, the jobs with the most mesothelioma deaths were homemaker (23%), elementary or middle school teacher (6%), and registered nurse (5%).
  • Women with a husband or father working in an asbestos-related profession were 10 times more likely to develop mesothelioma because of secondary exposure risks.

Mesothelioma Statistics by Race

In the United States, Caucasian (white) people are overwhelmingly more affected by mesothelioma than any other race.

In the CDC’s report on mesothelioma deaths, nearly 95% of the victims were white. Black and Hispanic populations each accounted for less than 2,000 of the total 45,221 mesothelioma deaths throughout this time.

Asian-American, Pacific Islander, and Native American populations had extremely low rates of mesothelioma, with fewer than 600 deaths from these groups.

Mesothelioma Statistics on Latency Periods

A latency period is how long it takes for someone to show symptoms of a disease after being exposed to its cause. Mesothelioma has an unusually long latency period, with most cases developing 10-50 years after asbestos exposure.

According to mesothelioma statistics from a British study of workers, the average latency period for the disease was about 23 years. The study also noted that exposure to higher amounts of asbestos did not cause the cancer to develop faster.

The CDC reports that the estimated median time from initial asbestos exposure to death is 32 years.

Diagnosis Statistics of Mesothelioma

Like most cancers, mesothelioma has the best outcomes when caught in its earliest stages.

Here is a breakdown of mesothelioma cases as diagnosed by stage:

  • 9% of cases are diagnosed in stage 1 (local)
  • 14% are diagnosed in stage 2 (regional)
  • 65% are diagnosed in stages 3 and 4 (distant)
  • 12% are diagnosed without an official stage determined

Mesothelioma has a very high instance of late-stage diagnosis, which may explain why the prognosis of most patients is so poor.

Mesothelioma Statistics on Survival and Prognosis

Once a diagnosis has been made, a patient can obtain a mesothelioma prognosis — the expected course of their disease.

Though almost all cases of mesothelioma are fatal, a prognosis tells a patient how long they may have to live. To provide an accurate estimate of a patient’s life span, doctors turn to mesothelioma survival statistics of past patients.

Did You Know?

According to mesothelioma statistics from the Mayo Clinic, 5-10% of patients are still alive 5 years after diagnosis.

The median life expectancy for mesothelioma patients is 11 months, but each individual’s prognosis is impacted by factors such as the cancer’s location, stage, and cell type.

Our list of questions to ask your doctor can help you get the information you need about mesothelioma treatment options, second opinions, and more.

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Mesothelioma Survival Statistics by Location

Where the cancer first develops can greatly impact a patient’s survival.

  • Pleural mesothelioma: According to the Lancet, a medical journal, the median life expectancy for pleural mesothelioma patients is 1 year after diagnosis.
  • Peritoneal mesothelioma: With treatment, 29-63% of patients are still alive 5 years after diagnosis. ASCO notes that peritoneal mesothelioma patients have longer survival rates since peritoneal tumors often grow slower than tumors belonging to the other mesothelioma types.
  • Pericardial mesothelioma: Patients diagnosed with this type will live for 6 months on average, according to a study published in the Journal of Thoracic Disease.
  • Testicular mesothelioma: This type of mesothelioma has a relatively high survival rate. Overall, nearly 50% of patients were still alive 5 years after being diagnosed with testicular mesothelioma, according to a 2019 report.

While these survival statistics may be considered poor, they are not absolutes. For example, Paul Kraus received a mesothelioma diagnosis in 1997 after being exposed to asbestos in the 1960s. Though doctors told him he had less than a year to live, he is still alive as of 2023 — 26 years later.

Mesothelioma Survival Rates By Stage

There are statistics on the 1- and 5-year survival rates of people diagnosed with various stages of mesothelioma who received treatment.

Pleural mesothelioma is the only type of this cancer that can be broken up into stages, according to the ACS. There is not sufficient historical data on the other types to do so.

Mesothelioma Stage1-Year Survival Rate5-Year Survival Rate
Localized41%6%
Regional40%4%
Distant32%3%

Mesothelioma Survival Statistics By Cell Type

Mesothelioma tumors can be made up of several different types of cells. Some of these cells spread more quickly throughout the body than others, which can impact a patient’s overall lifespan.

Mesothelioma cell types include: 

  • Epithelioid: These cells grow more slowly than the others and are more responsive to treatments. Patients with this cell type live for 12.5 months on average.
  • Sarcomatoid: These cells are very aggressive and typically respond poorly to treatment. Because of this, patients with sarcomatoid mesothelioma have a median survival time of 9.4 months.
  • Biphasic: Some mesothelioma tumors consist of both epithelioid and sarcomatoid cells. Survival rates vary depending on which cell type is dominant, with biphasic patients living for 11 months on average.

Patients can learn what mesothelioma cell type they have by consulting their doctor after diagnosis.

Mesothelioma Survival Rates by Demographics

A patient’s unique demographic factors also affect their survival rate.

  • Age: According to ASCO, younger patients diagnosed with mesothelioma may live longer.
  • Gender: Women are 3 times more likely to survive for 5 years after diagnosis than men, according to mesothelioma statistics published by the Annals of Thoracic Surgery.
  • Overall health: Patients who have other health conditions in addition to mesothelioma may not be able to safely undergo life-extending treatments like surgery.

Since these factors can vary greatly with each person, some may have a better (or worse) life expectancy than the general population.

If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, our free Mesothelioma Guide can help you find treatment options and pursue financial assistance.

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Mesothelioma Treatment Benefits

One of the best ways to improve a mesothelioma prognosis is through treatment.

The most common mesothelioma treatments include:

These mesothelioma treatments help doctors kill or remove cancerous tumors from the body and hopefully improve a patient’s lifespan.

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In recent years, researchers have been studying new treatments such as immunotherapy in mesothelioma clinical trials with the hope of providing patients with better outcomes and ultimately finding a cure for this devastating disease.

A search of a government database used to locate medical studies all over the world revealed more than 180 active clinical trials for mesothelioma as of January 2023.  

Mesothelioma Statistics About Surgery

According to ASCO, mesothelioma patients who undergo surgery typically live longer than patients who are not candidates for surgery. Most patients who qualify for mesothelioma surgeries are diagnosed before the cancer has spread throughout the body.

Mesothelioma surgeries include: 

  • Extrapleural Pneumonectomy (EPP): Used to treat pleural mesothelioma, this surgery removes all visible cancer tumors, the lung closest to the tumor site, the lung lining, and other affected organs from the body.  According to one study, the 5-year survival rate for this surgery was 14%.
  • Pleurectomy with Decortication (P/D): This surgery is also used to treat pleural mesothelioma patients. Cancerous tumors and the lung lining are still removed, but the lung closest to the tumors is kept intact. According to one study, 23% of patients who received a P/D along with chemotherapy were still alive after 5 years.
  • Cytoreduction with HIPEC: This peritoneal mesothelioma treatment combines surgery with heated chemotherapy. 41-47% of patients who underwent this surgery were still alive after 5 years, according to a study.

A 2021 study published in the Journal of Gastrointestinal Surgery found that patients with malignant peritoneal mesothelioma who had cytoreductive surgery with HIPEC at teaching hospitals had a 5-year survival rate of 29.7%. Patients who underwent the same procedure at community hospitals had a 5-year survival rate of 18.3%.

If patients are not healthy enough to undergo one of the surgeries listed above, they may be able to undergo palliative surgeries. These less-invasive surgeries are intended to help ease symptoms such as difficulty breathing.

Multimodality Therapy Mesothelioma Statistics

Mesothelioma patients’ life expectancies may improve with multimodal therapy, in which different types of cancer treatments are used alongside one another. Mesothelioma patients who have received a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation typically survive 16-19 months.

Median survival rates by stage with multimodal therapy are as follows:

  • Overall median survival is 17 months
  • Stage 1 median survival is 22 months
  • Stage 2 median survival is 17 months
  • Stage 3 median survival is 11 months

Untreated mesothelioma is typically fatal within 4-8 months of diagnosis.

Currently, researchers are looking at whether chemotherapy is more beneficial before or after mesothelioma surgery.

International Mesothelioma Statistics

Mesothelioma is not a problem specific to the United States. Because asbestos was used around the world, mesothelioma is a global epidemic. The ACS notes that the reported cases of mesothelioma are still increasing in other countries even today.

Fifty-five countries have banned the mining and use of asbestos, but many other countries have not — and asbestos continues to be produced across the globe.

These nations have the highest mesothelioma incidence rate:

  1. United Kingdom — 18.36 per million people
  2. Australia — 16.7 per million people

Even though both nations have banned asbestos, incidences of mesothelioma are still on the rise.

China uses more asbestos than any other country — 570,000 tons per year.

Like the United States, these countries have a much higher mesothelioma rate in men than women.

Costs of Mesothelioma & Patient Resources

According to recent estimates, mesothelioma medical costs often reach $500,000 or more. This does not account for lost wages if a person can no longer work or if their family members need to stop working to provide care.

Victims should not have to pay for the high costs of mesothelioma treatments since corporations used asbestos despite knowing the health risks.

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Mesothelioma Asbestos Statistics FAQs

What is the death rate of mesothelioma?

About 2,500 mesothelioma deaths are reported in the United States every year.

How common is mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is considered a rare cancer. About 3,000 new cases are reported every year in the United States.

The total population in the U.S. in 2022 was more than 333 million people, according to the Census Bureau. That means that far less than 1% of Americans will develop mesothelioma each year.

Men are much more likely to develop mesothelioma than women.

What are the chances of surviving mesothelioma?

The chances of surviving mesothelioma are slim for many people, but others can become long-term survivors.

Most mesothelioma patients survive 4-18 months after diagnosis. However, some patients have lived 10 years or more.

A man named Paul Kraus is believed to be the longest-living mesothelioma survivor. Kraus was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 1997 at age 52 and is still living 26 years later.

Mesothelioma survival rates depend on many factors, including the type of mesothelioma and the overall health of the patient.

Who is most likely to get mesothelioma?

Blue-collar workers and U.S. veterans are most likely to develop mesothelioma because they worked with or near asbestos.

Men are much more likely to develop mesothelioma than women. However, women with husbands or fathers who worked in industries that exposed them to asbestos are 10 times more likely to develop mesothelioma than other women.

White people are much more likely to be affected by mesothelioma than Black or Hispanic people.

Reviewed by:Dr. Mark Levin

Certified Oncologist and Hematologist

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Mark Levin, MD has over 30 years of experience in academic and community hematology and oncology. In addition to serving as Chief or Director at four different teaching institutions throughout his life, he is also still a practicing clinician, has taught and designed formal education programs, and has authored numerous publications in various fields related to hematology and oncology.

Dr. Mark Levin is an independently paid medical reviewer.

  • Board Certified Oncologist
  • 30+ Years Experience
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Lead Editor

Laura Wright is a journalist and content strategist with more than 14 years of professional experience. She attended college at the University of Florida, graduating magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2008. Her writing has been featured in The Gainesville Sun and other regional publications throughout Florida.

25 References
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