Facts About Mesothelioma

  1. Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer which is almost always caused by exposure to asbestos.
  2. Mesothelioma is a “low dose” disease which can arise from very low levels of exposure. There is no evidence of a threshold below which there is no risk of mesothelioma.
  3. Mesothelioma can develop after short term exposures of only a few weeks.
  4. Mesothelioma typically takes between 20 and 71 years to develop between first exposure and the development of disease. This is known as a “latency period.” Although not common, there are cases where mesothelioma has developed in less than 20 years.
  5. The risk of developing mesothelioma increases with the duration and intensity of exposure to asbestos. Simply put, the more exposure, the greater the risk.
  6. Although mesothelioma can occur in young people and even children, it is seldom seen in people under 45. About 2/3 of people with mesothelioma are 65 or older.
  7. Mesotheliomas can be classified according to where they originate in the body. The most common type is pleural mesothelioma which develops in the membranes around the lungs, followed by peritoneal mesothelioma which develops in the lining of the abdominal cavity. Mesothelioma can also develop in the pericardium, the sac enclosing the heart, or the tunica vaginalis, the layer enclosing the testicles.
  8. About ¾ of all mesotheliomas are pleural in nature, while peritoneal mesotheliomas account for most of the rest. Peridcardial mesotheliomas account for less than 1%, and testicular mesotheliomas are even rarer.
  9. Despite government regulations to limit exposures, there are approximately 2500 new cases of mesothelioma reported every year in the United States.


Malignant Mesothelioma Mortality –United States, 1999-2015, MMWR Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report 2017, 66:214-218. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6608a3.

American Cancer society, What Are the Risk Factors for Malignant Mesothelioma? https://www.cancer.org/cancer/malignant-mesothelioma/causes-risks-prevention/risk

American Cancer Society, http://www.cancer.org/cancer/malignant-mesothelioma/about/malignant-mesothelioma.html.


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