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 5 years after diagnosis. That said, some patients have defied these mesothelioma statistics 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 options are available to you.

Important mesothelioma statistics include: 

  • Most cases of malignant mesothelioma are caused by exposure to asbestos, 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 four main types of mesothelioma depending on where the cancer develops in the body.
    • Pleural mesothelioma: This type develops in the lining of the lungs (pleura). It accounts for 70-85% of all cases.
    • Peritoneal mesothelioma: This type of mesothelioma starts in the linings of the abdomen (peritoneum). 10-25% of people are diagnosed with this type of mesothelioma.
    • Pericardial mesothelioma: This rare form of mesothelioma develops in the lining of the heart (pericardium). It makes up less than 1% of all cases.
    • Testicular mesothelioma: This is an extremely rare form of mesothelioma, with only a few hundred cases reported. It develops in the lining of the testicles (tunica vaginalis).
  • Mesothelioma typically develops 20-50 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 gone on to achieve long-term survivorship with medical treatments like surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.

Learn more important mesothelioma cancer statistics below.

United States Mesothelioma Statistics

Mesothelioma is still a big concern in the United States.

  • About 3,000 new cases are diagnosed each year in the United States, according to the mesothelioma statistics from the American Cancer Society (ACS).
  • From 1999-2015, over 45,000 people died from mesothelioma, as noted by a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • Mesothelioma death rates have been increasing in recent years, with 2,479 deaths reported in 1999 and 2,597 deaths reported in 2015.
  • Asbestos — the main cause of mesothelioma — is still not completely banned as of 2020.

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.

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. Those over the age of 65 are more likely to develop mesothelioma since it usually takes 20-50 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 those aged 55 and up.

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 exposed to asbestos should be medically examined for possible health problems such as mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma Statistics by Gender

According to the ACS, men are four times more likely to be diagnosed with mesothelioma than women, likely due to men’s higher occupational exposure to asbestos.

Women made up just 22% of reported mesothelioma deaths worldwide, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) study of data from 1994 to 2008.

The ACS notes that the number of women with mesothelioma is both steady and low.

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. African-American 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 less 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 not developing until 20-50 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.

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 Rates 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 for 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 survival rate for mesothelioma patients is 11 months, but each individual’s prognosis is impacted by factors such as mesothelioma location, stage, and cell type.

Survival Rates by Location

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

  • Pleural mesothelioma: According to the medical journal the Lancet, 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. The 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 six months on average, according to a 2014 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 diagnosis, according to a 2019 report.

While these survival rates are maybe 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 2020 — a full 23 years later.

Survival Rates By Stage

The ACS has also published statistics on the 2- and 5-year survival rates of people diagnosed with various stages of mesothelioma who received treatment.

Learn more about the survival rates by stage below.

Stage 2-Year Survival 5-Year Survival
Stage IA 46% 16%
Stage IB 41% 13%
Stage II 38% 10%
Stage IIIA 30% 8%
Stage IIIB 26% 5%
Stage IV 17% <1%

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.

Survival Rates By Cell Type

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

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, all stages taken together.
  • 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.

Survival Rates by Demographics

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

These factors include:

  • Age: According to ASCO, younger patients diagnosed with mesothelioma may live longer.
  • Gender: Women are three times more likely to survive for 5 years after diagnosis than men, according to 2014 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.

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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:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation

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

Mesothelioma Statistics About Surgery

According to ASCO, mesothelioma patients who can undergo surgery typically live longer than those who cannot. Most of those who qualify for mesothelioma surgeries were diagnosed before the cancer 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 a 2014 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 a 2015 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% to 47% of patients who underwent this surgery were still alive after 5 years, according to a 2017 study.

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 to 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 to 8 months of diagnosis.

International Mesothelioma Statistics

Mesothelioma is not a problem specific to the United States. Because asbestos was a popular commodity 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.

According to a 2014 study, the highest rates of mesothelioma are reported in:

  • Australia — 3.2 per 100,000 men
  • Belgium — 2.0 per 100,000 men
  • The Netherlands — 2.85 per 100,000 men
  • New Zealand — 2.5 per 100,000 men
  • Malta — 2.08 per 100,000 men
  • United Kingdom — 3.4 per 100,000 men

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 can often reach $500,000 or more. This does not account for the 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.

Our team is standing by to assist you, contact us today.

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
  • Published Medical Author

Mesothelioma Hope was founded by a team of passionate health advocates to educate people about this aggressive form of cancer. Mesothelioma affects thousands of people each year. Our team works tirelessly to give hope to those impacted by mesothelioma. Learn more about operating principles and our Editorial Guidelines.

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