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Is Mesothelioma Considered a Rare Type of Cancer?

Doctor holding tablet

Mesothelioma is relatively rare compared to some of the more commonly-occurring cancers in the United States and around the world. According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 3,000 new cases of malignant mesothelioma are diagnosed in our nation each year, comprising less than 0.3% of all U.S. cancer diagnoses. Female breast cancer, by contrast, records the highest number of new diagnoses annually, with 284,200 new cases expected in the U.S. by the end of 2021. Prostate cancer is similarly estimated to reach 248,530 new cases by the year’s end, based on National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Cancer Institute research.

Because most mesothelioma is believed to be a product of prolonged asbestos exposure, the incidence of mesothelioma cases is highly concentrated around situations, usually occupations, in which asbestos is repeatedly broken up and inhaled. Individuals who work as miners, electricians, pipefitters, shipyard workers, or within construction and demolition positions are at much greater risk of developing mesothelioma than the average person who has little exposure to asbestos. To better understand this cancer’s prevalence and the demographics of the diagnosed population, we will look at some key statistics related to mesothelioma. However, it’s important to first understand that mesothelioma comes in four types.

Types of Mesothelioma

Pleural mesothelioma (one which develops in the lining of the lungs) represents 75% or higher of all mesothelioma cases. This is the form of cancer people most commonly associate with the term “mesothelioma.” Peritoneal mesothelioma, the second most prevalent type, makes up around 20% of diagnosed cases and is found in the lining of the abdominal cavity, called the peritoneum. Pericardial mesothelioma is much rarer, seen in only about 1% of diagnosed patients. This type affects the lining of the heart, or pericardium. Finally, testicular mesothelioma, the rarest form of mesothelioma, comprises only less than 1% of diagnosed cases in the United States.

Mesothelioma Statistics

Let’s firstly look at statistics which can give us a broad perspective on mesothelioma incidence, both in the United States and globally. While it is considered a rare form of cancer, the impact it has on communities around the world is substantial.

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) research showed a reported 45,221 mesothelioma deaths in the U.S. between 1999 and 2015.
  • The southernmost area of the U.S. suffers the highest rates of mesothelioma overall. There were 18,414 diagnosed cases between 1999 and 2016, compared to less than 14,000 in each of the other U.S. regions (western, midwestern, and northeastern) during the same time period.
  • The states with the highest incidence rates include New York, California, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Florida. California tops the list in deaths resulting from mesothelioma.
  • Behind the United States, other nations experiencing the highest rates of mesothelioma include the U.K. (over 2,500 cases per year), Australia (an estimated 700-800 cases each year), The Netherlands (averaging over 500 cases annually), and Belgium (219 deaths in 2009, the 4th highest mesothelioma mortality rate in the world).
  • A 2021 Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study conducted by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) estimated that over 230,000 people die annually from diseases caused by occupational exposure to asbestos, including mesothelioma.

Now let’s look at some of the facts which help us analyze the disease, its prevalence, affected demographics, and survival rates.

  • Roughly 2-10% of people who are exposed to heavy concentrations of asbestos for prolonged periods of time develop pleural mesothelioma.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that about 125 million people in the world are exposed to asbestos at their place of work.
  • Mesothelioma’s latency period, or the amount of time between initial exposure to asbestos and the appearance of symptoms, can range from 20 to 70 years.
  • The average age for a pleural mesothelioma diagnosis is 72.
  • About 80% of mesothelioma patients are male and over 90% are white, with Hispanic as the second most common race diagnosed with a little over 5% of cases.
  • The overall 5-year survival rate for diagnosed mesothelioma patients is 10%.
  • The median survival length after a malignant mesothelioma diagnosis is approximately 1 year.

A Mesothelioma Lawyer Can Help

Mesothelioma in a unique and rare form of cancer which impacts only a small percentage of individuals who have been exposed to specific conditions. It is very often the case that a mesothelioma patient would never have received the diagnosis they did had they not been put in the way of harm by an employer. If you have questions, or are unsure what to do after you or a loved one received a mesothelioma diagnosis, contact a mesothelioma lawyer with experience advocating for patients whose rights were violated in the workplace. Reach out to Frost Law Firm, PC to schedule a conversation with one of our attorneys.

Our Experience Is Personal

Scott L. Frost’s Family Experience with Lung Cancer

For most of his life, Scott L. Frost’s father, who was in the construction industry, worked with and sold products containing asbestos without knowing the materials were dangerous. He was diagnosed with lung cancer 40 years after starting his career, leading Scott’s family to fight like they had never fought before.

Pictured here with his wife of over 50 years, Scott’s father eventually succumbed to the cancer. Since then, Scott has made it his mission to do everything in his power to make sure corporations understand how dangerous asbestos is and prevent future generations from suffering as his family did, as well as support research that may lead to finding a cure.

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