Malignant Mesothelioma At a Glance

Malignant mesothelioma (cancer of the mesothelium) is a disease in which cells of the mesothelium become abnormal and divide without control or order. It is a rare form of cancer that most frequently arises from the cells lining the sacs of the chest (the pleura) or the abdomen (the peritoneum). Malignant mesothelioma is closely linked to exposure to asbestos - a natural fiber that was once used in manufacturing a wide variety of industrial and household products. Workers involved in asbestos mining, milling and manufacturing are at the greatest risk for developing malignant mesothelioma. Also at high risk are shipyard workers, workers in the heating and construction industries, and other tradespeople. Family members and others living with asbestos workers have an increased risk of developing malignant mesothelioma, and possibly other asbestos related diseases as well. Cases of malignant mesothelioma have even included people whose only exposure was breathing the air through ventilation systems.

Although reported incidence rates have increased in the past 20 years, malignant mesothelioma is still a relatively rare cancer. Between 1973 and 1984, there has been a threefold increase in the diagnosis of pleural mesothelioma in Caucasian males. From 1980 to the late 1990s, the death rate from malignant mesothelioma in the USA increased from 2,000 per year to 3,000, with men four times more likely to acquire it than women. The actual rates may be even higher however, since it is possible that many cases of malignant mesothelioma are misdiagnosed as adenocarcinoma of the lung, which is difficult to differentiate from mesothelioma.

The average age of diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma is 60. The average survival time varies from 4 to 18 months, and death is usually due to infection or respiratory failure from the progression of the mesothelioma.

Find out more about Malignant Mesothelioma.

Or learn more about Mesothelioma Cancer.

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