Mesothelioma statistics are always changing, and understanding the most recent information can help patients and their loved ones make more informed decisions about treatment and next steps. This data can also help the general public get a better understanding of this devastating rare cancer that many know very little about.
Here is some of the latest data and research around mesothelioma and asbestos to help both patients and the general population learn about the disease.
It’s important to remember that many of these statistics may appear cold and frightening, but the risk for the disease and its progression in a patient will be unique for each individual.
Mesothelioma Incidence, Survival and Mortality
Mesothelioma incidence refers to the number of people diagnosed with the disease. The most recent reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that there are about 2,400 – 2,800 new mesothelioma cases in the United States each year. The number of cases has remained rather steady over the years, partially because of the disease’s long latency period.
That’s the equivalent of about 1 person diagnosed per every 100,000 Americans.
Though the disease is rare, with the latest numbers from the National Institute of Health (NIH) estimating people only face a 0.04% chance of developing the cancer in their lifetime, it can still potentially affect millions. Research has estimated at least 20 million people could develop the disease, and millions of people around the world are exposed to asbestos each year.
In addition to its rarity, mesothelioma is often most commonly linked to its poor prognosis. Reports have shown that mesothelioma patients on average survive 12 to 21 months, though survival rates have improved slightly in recent years because of clinical trials and new treatments, like immunotherapy. Peritoneal mesothelioma in particular has seen much improved survival rates in recent years, with studies showing a 5-year survival of at least 50%. Malignant pleural mesothelioma has seen minimal progress, with the most recent survival statistics showing an improvement of only about 0.5% each year. As clinical trials continue to study these emerging mesothelioma treatments, as well as test new diagnostic methods, researchers hope to see survival rates continue to improve.
While survival rates have improved slightly, overall malignant mesothelioma mortality rate has also remained rather steady over the years. From 1999 to 2015, mortality data showed 45,009 recorded mesothelioma deaths. That equals to a mortality rate of about 8 people per million annually in the United States. Though it might not seem like a high number, researchers have found that there are at least 2,500 mesothelioma deaths each year – about the same as the number of new cases each year.
Mesothelioma by Age and Gender
A number of risk factors can influence a mesothelioma diagnosis, including a person’s age and gender. In general, mesothelioma is more common in the older population, though researchers have seen an increase in diagnoses among younger demographics because of genetics and asbestos exposure through home renovation projects. However, research still suggests around 91% of all mesothelioma diagnoses occur in patients aged 55 or older.
In comparison, 66 years old is the average age of diagnosis across all types of cancer.
In addition to age, research has found that mesothelioma is more common in men than women, with 75% of mesothelioma deaths attributed to men. Reports estimate that this large disparity is at least partially due to occupational exposure. Asbestos exposure is most common in the workplace, with men more prevalently holding jobs in asbestos industries, like construction, for many years.
States Most Impacted by Mesothelioma
Location can also have a large impact on mesothelioma diagnosis and mortality, since certain occupations were more likely to rely on asbestos, and asbestos occurs naturally in various pockets across the country.
States With the Most Mesothelioma Deaths
Research has also shown that mesothelioma deaths are 2 to 4 times higher in port cities and parts of the Rust Belt because of the higher prevalence of asbestos.
Since asbestos is still not fully banned in the United States, it’s important for the public to be well educated on the toxin and prevent dangerous exposure that can lead to mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases.
Asbestos Use in the U.S.
Asbestos has a long history in the United States, despite researchers discovering the health risks of exposure by the 1920s, if not earlier. Though asbestos use today is not nearly as prevalent as it used to be, advocates are still hoping for a full ban on the toxin in the near future. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently investigating asbestos and nine other dangerous chemicals for potential changes in legislation, such as a ban.
At its peak, the U.S. imported over 803,000 tons of asbestos in 1973.
340 pounds of raw asbestos were imported in 2016.
The last asbestos mine in the United States closed in 2002.
Over 25.6 million pounds of asbestos were disposed of in 2015.
Global Impact of Asbestos
So far, asbestos has been banned in over 60 countries around the world, but the global asbestos trade continues to thrive. Though some countries that were known to widely use and import asbestos have since banned its use, like Brazil and Canada, other countries continue to rely on the toxin more than ever. Russia, for instance, is the biggest exporter of asbestos, accounting for at least 56% of all asbestos exports. Reports estimate these exports to be worth nearly $200 million.
Even in countries that have since banned asbestos, mesothelioma continues to take its toll. Australia banned asbestos in 2003, but still has among the highest rates of mesothelioma. Australia faces around 600 new diagnoses each year, though researchers have found the incidence rate to continue growing and expect the trend to continue through at least 2021. Similarly, the United Kingdom banned asbestos in 1999, but still sees nearly 3,000 new mesothelioma diagnoses each year.
Mesothelioma and asbestos are a global problem that continue to claim thousands of lives. Hopefully with continued awareness, asbestos exposure can be better prevented and mesothelioma rates will start to decline.