Cancer Information


Malignant mesothelioma is a primary tumor of the pleura, peritoneum, pericardium, and other organs. 

Incidence: Mesothelioma has been such a rare disease, or one recognized so infrequently, that it has not been coded as a separate cause of death and has been seriously underestimated in mortality statistics. But with nearly 14 cases per million persons in the United States developing malignant mesothelioma each year mesothelioma is no longer a rare disorder. This means that nearly 3000 new cases occur annually in United States alone. 

  • The age-adjusted incidence of pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma in the United States has been estimated at 14.2 per million per year, with almost a three-fold increase for pleural mesothelioma in Caucasian males. In autopsy studies, the frequency of malignant mesothelioma varies from 0.02 to 0.7%, with a rate of 0.2% in the largest series. 

  • The male-female ratio is about 4:1

  • 80% arise from the pleura. The mean age of patients is approximately 60 years, but the disease can occur at any age, including in  childhood.


  • A unique feature of mesothelioma is its strong relationship with asbestos exposure. 

  • About 20% of patients have no demonstrable or anamnestic exposure to asbestos.

  •   The role of various other fibers, such as zeolites is speculated to play a role in some cases of mesotheioma.

  •   Clinical observations also strongly suggest a genetic susceptibility to mesothelioma. Clusters of cases have been reported in some families, often by household exposure to asbestos, and also in identical twins but a clear genetic susceptibility has not yet been established.