Mesothelioma Death and Mortality Rate

Mesothelioma Death and Mortality Rate

Mesothelioma Death and Mortality Rate

Death rates, also known as mortality rates, provide valuable information about a cancer's effect on specific geographical locations and groups of people. Death rate can be explained in several ways, but is most commonly expressed as the number of deaths per million people for a specific population. Mesothelioma death rates are often age-adjusted, which compensates for varying age distributions across the populations being compared.
Death rate and mortality rate may sound different, but they actually refer to the same thing: The number of deaths in general, or from a precise cause, in a specific group of people.
From 1999 to 2010, for example, the age-adjusted death rate for Americans 25 and older was 12.8 deaths per million people. For comparison, the country with the highest age-adjusted death rate from 1994 to 2008 was the United Kingdom with 17.8 deaths per million.
Overall, nearly 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year in the United States, which represents 0.02 percent of all U.S. cancer cases.

Mesothelioma Death Rate by Gender, United States, 1999-2010

Mesothelioma Death Rate by Gender, United States
*Age-adjusted death rate for people 25 and older per 1 million population.
For a variety of reasons, disease specialists did not track the death rates from asbestos cancers over a long period of time. It wasn't until 1999 that the U.S. government began classifying the diseases as a cause of death. This was mostly because doctors rarely discovered them until a post-mortem examination. This was also because pleural mesothelioma is so rare it often was mistaken for lung cancer or another respiratory disease.
Now that asbestos cancers are more well-known and diagnosed more accurately, their mortality rates are coming more into focus. However, the numbers are not positive, and some evidence suggests the death rates are decreasing over time.

CDC Database

The most up-to-date information on asbestos-related death rates comes from CDC WONDER, an online database offered by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The database specifies the number of people who died from the disease over an 11-year period from 1999 to 2010.

Age-adjusted Death Rates

Because the latency period between the first exposure to asbestos and the diagnosis of a related cancer is usually between 25 and 50 years, the death rates that follow include only people aged 25 years and older. Death rates are age-adjusted according to the 2000 U.S. standard population.

Death Rates

  • Mesothelioma Death Rate by State, 1999-2010*
  • Death Rate by Age, Gender and Race
  • Mesothelioma Death Rate by State, 1999-2010*

    Mesothelioma Death Rate by State, 1999-2010
    *Deaths per year per 1 million people 25+ years old. Age-adjusted rate per 1 million population.
    • From 1999 to 2010, the age-adjusted mesothelioma death rate in the United States was 12.8 deaths per million people.
    • In 1999, the adjusted rate was 13.2 deaths per million. The death rate dropped to 12.3 deaths per million by the end of 2010, a decline of nearly 7 percent.
    • During the 11-year period, 27 states surpassed the national average. The five states with the highest rates of asbestos cancer deaths are:

    State Mesothelioma Death Rate (1999-2010)

    • Maine - 22.5 deaths per million
    • Alaska - 21.1 deaths per million
    • Washington - 20.3 deaths per million
    • Wyoming - 18.6 deaths per million
    • New Jersey - 17.8 deaths per million
  • Death Rate by Age, Gender and Race

    Asbestos cancer death rates vary greatly by age group. When sorted by 10-year age groups, the crude (not age-adjusted) death rate was highest among 75-84-year-olds at 72.4 deaths per million. The death rates for the 25-34-year-old group and the 35-44-year-old group were both fewer than one death per million.
    • The mesothelioma death rate is much higher among men. From 1999 to 2010, the age-adjusted death rate for men was 24.6 deaths per million, compared with 4.5 deaths per million for women.
    • The rate among men fell from 25.5 deaths per million in 1999 to 23 deaths per million in 2010. For women, the death rate fluctuated from 1999-2010, but remained close to this period's average rate of 4.5 deaths per million.
    • The rate for whites is more than double that of any other race. From 1999 to 2010, the age-adjusted death rate among whites was 13.9 deaths per million. The second highest rate was observed in American Indians or Alaska Natives (5.6 deaths per million), followed by Blacks or African Americans (5.4 deaths per million) and Asians or Pacific Islanders (3.3 deaths per million).
    • The mesothelioma death rate varies depending on the location of the primary tumor because of the different incidence rates of the two main types of mesothelioma. Pleural mesothelioma originates in the lining of the lungs and accounts for about 80 percent of all mesothelioma cases. Peritoneal mesothelioma forms in the lining of the abdomen and makes up about 20 percent of cases. More people die of pleural mesothelioma because of its higher incidence, which gives the pleural type a higher mortality rate per million. However, the CDC does not calculate average mortality rates by type. We don't know the true death rate for each type of mesothelioma because the CDC rarely records the specific type on death certificates.


  • Mesothelioma Deaths by State, 1999-2010
  • Mortality by Age, Gender and Race
  • Mesothelioma Deaths by State, 1999-2010

    Mesothelioma Deaths by State, 1999-2010
    • From 1999 to 2010, 29,639 people in the United States died of mesothelioma. The number of deaths rose from 2,342 in 1999 to 2,573 in 2010, an increase of 231 deaths.
    • In the majority of cases, death records do not indicate the exact type or subtype of cancer. From 1999 to 2010, there were 2,175 deaths attributed to pleural mesothelioma, 1,071 attributed to peritoneal mesothelioma and 31 attributed to pericardial mesothelioma. There were 3,724 deaths from mesothelioma of other sites.
    • In all, that is 9,001 deaths by all types. By contrast, 22,638 cases had an unspecified site of origin.
    • Although the United States no longer mines asbestos, a wide variety of industries and occupations used the toxic mineral throughout the 20th century. Asbestos use in the United States peaked at 803,000 metric tons in 1973 and then declined to approximately 1,700 metric tons in 2007.
    • The prevalence of asbestos use during the 20th century now poses serious risks, including death, for 1.3 million U.S. construction and general industry workers. The five most at-risk industries are ship and boat building and repairing, industrial and miscellaneous chemicals, petroleum refining, electric light and power and construction. Occupations such as plumbers, pipefitters and boiler makers, mechanical engineers, electricians and elementary school teachers are also at high risk.
    • Research shows that the incidence of asbestos cancer in the United States likely peaked in 2010. People exposed to asbestos in the 1970s, when the U.S. government first began restricting asbestos use, continue to develop mesothelioma because of the disease's decades-long latency period.
  • Mortality by Age, Gender and Race

    • The majority of people who died of asbestos-related cancer from 1999 to 2010 were between the ages of 75 and 84 (11,170 deaths), followed by ages 65 to 74 (8,637 deaths). There were only 91 mesothelioma deaths among 25-34-year-olds.
    • Men are diagnosed far more often than women. From 1999 to 2010, 23,784 men accounted for 80.2 percent of related deaths in the United States.
    • By race, whites comprised nearly 95 percent of deaths from asbestos cancers in the 11-year period, with 28,639 deaths. Blacks and African Americans, the next largest racial group for mesothelioma deaths, comprised nearly 3.9 percent of all deaths with 1,149.
    • Asbestos cancer cases among males peaked from 2008 to 2010, with more than 2,000 cases reported per year. The CDC predicts the number of cases should be on the decline, with an expected return to background levels by 2055. Mesothelioma cases among women are expected to increase slightly.
    Research and extensive studies are conducted daily to improve treatments for mesothelioma patients and search for a cure for the cancer. Through medical advances and developments in clinical trials, more options will continue to be available to combat mesothelioma and improve the mesothelioma death rate in the United States.

Number of U.S. Malignant Mesothelioma Deaths 2004 - 2010

2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 Total
Total 2,503 2,553 2,450 2,429 2,535 2,605 2,573 17,648
25-34 9 6 11 8 9 5 10 58
35-44 40 31 39 23 28 18 25 204
45-54 119 113 102 109 95 103 95 736
55-64 385 416 333 371 371 365 325 2,566
65-74 645 699 705 664 737 748 762 4,980
75-84 1,028 963 941 921 945 945 981 6,724
85+ 277 325 319 333 350 421 375 2,400
Male 2,009 2,018 1,972 1,937 2,008 2,077 2,043 14,064
Female 494 535 478 492 527 528 530 3,584
White 2,391 2,423 2,308 2,298 2,397 2,489 2,436 16,742
Black/ African American 89 103 121 92 98 79 106 688
Asian/ Pacific Islander 18 23 13 28 29 30 24 165

Is There a Mesothelioma Cure?

No cure for mesothelioma has been discovered, but advancements in treatment are helping people to live longer with this cancer. Current therapies and clinical trials are helping many people with early stage mesothelioma live at least three, five or more years. Some late-stage mesothelioma patients who participate in clinical trials are living around three years with innovative therapies like immunotherapy. People in otherwise good health with up to stage III mesothelioma may qualify for multimodal therapy that pairs aggressive surgery with chemotherapy and radiation therapy. This combined approach attacks the cancer multiple ways to improve treatment results. Many people who receive multimodal therapy for mesothelioma live longer than the average one-year survival rate.

Mesothelioma Survival Rates

Mesothelioma Survival Rates

Mesothelioma Survival Rates

About 40 percent of patients with mesothelioma survive the first year after diagnosis. That survival rate depends on many factors, including age, cancer stage, cancer type, race and gender. Long-term survivors attribute their success to treatment from a mesothelioma specialist, alternative medicine and nutritional changes.

How is survival rate measured?

Researchers describe the mesothelioma survival rate in several ways. They usually talk about it in terms of one-year survival, the percentage of people who survive for a year after diagnosis. Through their studies, they also look at longer survival times, including the number of people who live two years, three years and five years.

Average mesothelioma survival rates

Mesothelioma claimed nearly 30,000 American lives between 1999 and 2010. About 40 percent of U.S. patients live to the one year mark. By the second year, about 20 percent of patients are still alive. And by the third year, the number is 8 percent.

Factors That Affect Survival Rate

Survival rates for mesothelioma cancer vary by the patient's age, gender, race and several other factors. The location, stage and cell type of the cancer, as well as your overall health, have the strongest influence on your prognosis.
Below is a breakdown of some common factors and how each correlates to a patient's survival rate:
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Cancer Site
  • Location
  • Stage
  • Histology
  • Age

    Overall, older mesothelioma patients have a much lower survival rate than younger ones. More than 50 percent of patients diagnosed before the age of 50 live one year, but less than 33 percent of patients 75 or older live the same amount of time. Rates are similar for long-term survival. Younger patients have a 20 percent chance of surviving a decade; older individuals have a 1 percent chance.

    Mesothelioma Deaths by Age Range: 1999-2005

    Mesothelioma Deaths by Age Range
    This difference is largely because younger patients are eligible for more intensive treatments like surgery. Older individuals may not be candidates for these procedures because of poor overall health or a high risk of complications.
    Elderly people often manage one or more chronic medical conditions in addition to mesothelioma, such as diabetes, heart disease and COPD. Survival is generally better for younger people because they are less likely to have serious conditions that may make them ineligible for effective treatment options.
    It's rare when someone younger than 50 receives a diagnosis of asbestos-related cancer. The average age at diagnosis is 60, and from 1999 to 2010, nearly 80 percent of Americans who died from mesothelioma were older than 65.

    Mesothelioma Survival Rates by Age

    Mesothelioma survival rates by age line graph.
    When researchers break down survival rates by age, it's easy to see that the long-term outlook is best for patients diagnosed at a young age. National Cancer institute data show that while 43 percent of patients younger than 45 survive five years after diagnosis, that drops sharply — to 14.3 percent — for patients between the ages of 45 and 54. Overall, 5.7 percent of patients ages 65 and older at diagnosis survive after five years.

    Beating the Odds: Odell R.

    Odell Rankins
    It took considerable persuasion from his granddaughter to convince Navy veteran and pleural mesothelioma survivor Odell to travel to Boston in 2012 to see surgeon Dr. Abraham Lebenthal. Odell, from Mississippi, is now back on his farm and thriving after complex surgery that has extended his life.
  • Gender

    Research shows that women with pleural mesothelioma experience nearly three-fold better survival rate compared to men. After analyzing more than 14,000 pleural mesothelioma cases reported in the National Cancer Institute’s SEER database from 1973 to 2009, researchers found that the overall five-year survival rate for men was 4.5 percent, compared with 13.4 percent for women.

    Mesothelioma Survival Rates by Gender

    Mesothelioma survival rates by gender line graph.
    Most asbestos exposure occurs in the workplace, particularly in industrial jobs traditionally held by men. That helps explain why men account for around 80 percent of all mesothelioma cases.
    When asbestos use was far more pervasive decades ago, the few women who did develop a related illness were usually exposed because they lived near mines or factories – especially those that processed the mineral. Women also found themselves exposed by spouses, family members or friends who worked around asbestos brought home the tiny fibers on their clothes.
    Although numerous factors contribute to patient survival, women with mesothelioma appear to survive longer than men regardless of age, cancer stage, race or type of treatment. For every age group studied in the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) program, women fared significantly better than men. There is currently no conclusive answer as to why, but some researchers believe the improved survival could be explained by hormonal differences between genders.

    Beating the Odds: Jacob H.

    Jacob Hess
    Jacob, 60, went back to work quickly, and is still going strong four years after cytoreductive surgery and HIPEC at the University of Maryland's Greenebaum Cancer Center.
  • Race

    Mesothelioma is almost exclusive to white individuals, who make up 95 percent of patients. This vast difference may be in large part because black and Hispanic individuals are less likely to be diagnosed with any type of cancer, mesothelioma included. Data from SEER state that African-Americans and Hispanics account for only 8 percent of all cancer diagnoses.

    Mesothelioma Survival Rates by Race

    Mesothelioma survival rates by race line graph.
    Regardless of race, about 40 percent of mesothelioma patients survive one year. Two years from diagnosis, approximately 20 percent of patients survive. Although race does not appear to impact mesothelioma survival rate initially, as time goes on race becomes a more telling factor. From three years on, the survival rate of white patients is slightly worse than other ethnicities.
    Five-year survival among whites is 7.6 percent, compared with 12.3 percent for blacks. After 10 years, only 4.2 percent of white patients survive, while 9.5 percent of blacks are alive after the same amount of time. SEER data used to calculate these survival rates includes Hispanics among patients who identify as both black and white. Because mesothelioma is so rare among other races, reliable survival statistics are not available.
    Survival rates by ethnicity may be influenced by treatment decisions. One 2010 report that studied mesothelioma rates from 1990 to 2004 concluded that although black and Hispanic patients have better long-term survival, they are less likely to undergo surgery. While 25 percent of white patients received surgery during this time, among black patients the rate was 14 percent.

    Beating the Odds: John Conway

    John Conway
    John Conway is a 19-year Navy Veteran diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in 2012. After nine rounds of chemotherapy he is now ready to get back out and do what he loves, deep sea fishing.
  • Cancer Site

    There are four types of mesothelioma, and the site where the cancer originates can greatly affect patient survival. Of the two most common mesothelioma types, pleural and peritoneal, survival is significantly better for peritoneal mesothelioma patients. This, however, has not always been the case.

    Mesothelioma Survival Rates by Site

    Mesothelioma survival rates by site line graph.
    Before the emergence of an advanced peritoneal mesothelioma therapy called HIPEC that combines cytoreductive surgery and heated chemotherapy, median survival for untreated patients was about 6 months. This compares to a median survival of less than 12 months for patients with untreated pleural mesothelioma. In select studies, heated chemotherapy has boosted peritoneal mesothelioma survival to between 40 and 92 months.
    The remaining two types, pericardial and testicular mesothelioma, combined account for less than 2 percent of all asbestos-related cancer cases. Median survival for testicular mesothelioma, the rarest type, is 24 months. About 40 percent of patients die from the disease. Pericardial mesothelioma has a median survival ranging from six to 10 months.
    Although you have no control over the location of your cancer, you may be able to prolong survival by investigating all treatment options available to you. People diagnosed at an early stage can greatly benefit from a treatment plan involving aggressive surgery.
    People with advanced cancer are unlikely to qualify for surgery, but may improve survival and quality of life by participating in clinical trials exploring the latest experimental treatment options. Be sure to ask your doctor about potential treatment options and how they may affect your outlook.

    Beating the Odds: Tim C.

    Tim C.
    Tim is a pleural mesothelioma survivor in Georgia who first was diagnosed more than 10 years ago at age 45. He was young enough and strong enough to withstand an extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP), which removed one of his lungs, and the subsequent chemotherapy and radiation.
  • State and Region

    Mesothelioma predominantly affects groups living in more industrial states or those with naturally occurring asbestos deposits. While survival rates by state are not significant, death rates can be used to describe the total number of deaths in each state. This figure is usually expressed in deaths per million, meaning the number of deaths for every million residents of the state.

    Mesothelioma Death Rates by State, 1999-2010

    Mesothelioma Death Rates by State, 1999-2010
    The basic formula is this:
    Death Rate (in deaths per million) = (Mesothelioma Deaths / Total Population) * 1,000,000
    If the total number of residents in a state is 2 million, for example, and a total of 10 people died of mesothelioma, the death rate is 5 deaths per million. This formula provides a way for researchers to account for vast population differences between states. In more populous states, there may be a high number of mesothelioma deaths but a comparatively low death rate.
    In addition to correcting for population differences between states, researchers may also adjust statistics for age differences. Because mesothelioma is most often diagnosed in people between 50 and 70 years old, states with older populations appear to have higher mesothelioma death rates, even when this may not be true.
    For more meaningful comparisons across states and other regions, researchers can calculate age-adjusted death rates. When researchers do not age-adjust data, such as in the death rate formula above, the results are known as the crude death rate. Based on data from 1999 to 2010, Maine has the highest age-adjusted death rate of 14.6 deaths per million people. Besides Maine, 26 other states had a higher mesothelioma death rate than the national average of 8.3 deaths per million.

    The top five states by age-adjusted death rates include:

    • Maine — 14.6 deaths per million
    • Alaska — 13.6 deaths per million
    • Washington — 13.1 deaths per million
    • Wyoming — 12.0 deaths per million
    • New Jersey — 11.5 deaths per million
  • Stage of Cancer

    The stage of your cancer at diagnosis is a strong predictor of overall survival. Survival is best among people diagnosed with mesothelioma at an early stage, before cancer spread starts to limit treatment options.
    Early-stage patients who receive prompt treatment experience improved survival because they are more likely to qualify for surgery and other aggressive treatments associated with better outcomes.

    Pleural Mesothelioma Median Survival Rate by Stage

    Pleural Mesothelioma Median Survival by Stage
    Normally, mesothelioma is not diagnosed until it reaches stage III or stage IV, the last stages of development. This can include a larger tumor or extensive cancer spread throughout the body. Later stages of mesothelioma are more difficult to treat effectively, so these patients have worse survival rates.
    A late diagnosis is common because it can take 20 to 50 years after asbestos exposure for mesothelioma to develop, and many people don't experience symptoms until the cancer has already reached an advanced stage.
    While there is no established staging system for peritoneal mesothelioma, some researchers have proposed their own systems based on the TNM system, which uses tumor size, lymph node involvement and cancer spread to describe the extent of many types of cancer.
    One such novel staging system has three stages based on TNM characteristics and a measure of tumor burden called the peritoneal cancer index (PCI). In a 2011 international study involving 294 peritoneal mesothelioma patients treated with cytoreductive surgery and heated chemotherapy, researchers used this system to describe patient survival.
    One-year survival for stage I patients was 94 percent, 87 percent for stage II and 66 percent for stage III. The researchers also calculated five-year survival, which was 87 percent for stage I, 53 percent for stage II and 29 percent for stage III.

    Beating the Odds: Andy A.

    Andy A.
    Andy survived a 70 mph motorcycle crash in 2004 and beat the odds again surviving for the past three years with stage IV mesothelioma. He credits his survival with the immunotherapy drug Amatuximab (MORab-009), which is currently being tested in clinical trials.
  • Tumor Histology

    The histology, or cellular makeup, of a mesothelioma tumor is also an accurate predictor for patient survival. Mesothelioma has three primary cell types: Epithelial, sarcomatoid and biphasic. They differ not only in appearance, but also in behavior.

    Median Survival Rate by Tumor Histology

    Pleural Mesothelioma Median Survival by Tumor Histology
    With a median survival of 12 to 24 months, epithelial mesothelioma has the best prognosis. This cell type is the least aggressive and responds best to treatment. Sarcomatoid mesothelioma, on the other hand, has a median survival of six months. Sarcomatoid tumors exhibit more aggressive behavior in terms of cell growth and invasive spread. Biphasic mesothelioma, which has both epithelial and sarcomatoid features, has a median survival of 12 months.
    In a large, multi-institutional study that investigated how tumor histology and other factors affect survival, researchers observed similar survival rates. Among more than 3,000 pleural mesothelioma patients, epithelial cell type had the best survival rate, with a median survival of 19 months. Sarcomatoid patients experienced a median survival of eight months, the worst outcome of all cell types. Median survival for biphasic patients was 13 months.

Additional Resources

Karen Selby


Karen Selby

Karen Selby is a registered nurse and a Patient Advocate at The Mesothelioma Center. She worked in several subspecialties within nursing before joining in 2009.

Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

The average life expectancy for a mesothelioma patient ranges from 12 to 21 months, depending on a variety of factors, such as the stage in which the patient was first diagnosed with the cancer. About 40 percent of mesothelioma patients survive one year, and 20 percent live more than two years.

Staging and Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Increasingly, people who have aggressive asbestos-related cancer find their lives being measured in years — not months. Improved therapies and emerging drug combinations offer newly diagnosed patients a reason to hope and spend more time with their loved ones.
Given the progressive nature of the disease, staging plays an important role in determining a mesothelioma patient's life expectancy.
Stage Median Life Expectancy
I 21 months
II 19 months
III 16 months
IV 12 months
Life Expectancy Chart
Experts say generalized life expectancy predictions are almost impossible to make because each case is so different, but the news is slowly getting better.

Extending Life Expectancy

Today, patients live longer than ever before. Some survive three, five, even 10 years and beyond their original prognosis, providing inspirational comeback stories for other potential survivors. The disease can change you forever, but many survivors continue to lead active lives, traveling and doing activities with grandkids and other loved ones.

Cutting-Edge Treatment

Exceptions are becoming the rule, with the advent of genetic therapy, immunotherapy and today's multimodal treatments. Ongoing clinical trials are changing the perception of mesothelioma.
Get Help Finding Clinical Trials

Specialized Care

Specialty cancer centers give patients the best chance at survival. That's why finding a specialist with experience in treating the disease is the first step toward increasing your life expectancy.
Find a Mesothelioma Specialist

Factors That Affect Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

What influences how long you live after being diagnosed with mesothelioma? Factors that affect life expectancy include the stage of the cancer, tumor location and cell type as well as non-tumor factors such as age, sex, blood characteristics and general health.

Tumor-Related Factors

The stage of the cancer at the time of diagnosis, tumor cell type, and the location of the tumor are known as tumor-related factors. These factors influence the type of treatment options you have available to you.

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Non-Tumor Factors

In addition to tumor-related factors, other factors also can influence your life expectancy. Traits like overall health, age, gender and even characteristics of your blood indicate to a doctor how well your body will respond to treatment.
  • Performance Status

    Performance status is a more technical term for overall health, and indicates the activity level and general fitness of a patient. Nearly all studies that examined performance status in pleural mesothelioma patients showed a significant effect on survival. The more active and fit you are, the more likely your body will be able to withstand and recover from aggressive cancer treatments.
    Smokers & Mesothelioma
    Smokers are 90% more likely to develop lung cancer after exposure to asbestos.
  • Gender

    Historically, men experienced more occupational exposure to asbestos than women. Because of their increased exposure, men are four times more likely to develop mesothelioma than women. Studies show that women with epithelial mesothelioma tend to live longer than men do. Researchers are not sure why women have better life expectancies.
    Gender Pie Chart
    Men are four times more likely to develop mesothelioma than women.
  • Age

    Younger, healthier patients with mesothelioma have more options for treatment than older, less healthy patients. That's because as we age, our bodies lose the ability to recover from aggressive therapies and procedures. And as we get older, we are more likely to have other health conditions that could leave certain types of treatment out of reach.
    Age Pie Chart
    75 percent of mesothelioma cases in the U.S. occur in men age 55 or older.
  • Blood Characteristics

    Some cells and biomarkers found in the blood appear to have an impact on life expectancy. Several studies report that thrombocytosis (high blood platelet count) and leukocytosis (high white blood cell count) prior to surgery are associated with shorter life expectancy. Biomarkers such as COX-2, antigen p27, MIB-1, VEGF and glycoprotein 90K may have an effect on life expectancy. Your doctor can explain your blood test results and how they may affect your expected survival.
    Blood Characteristics
    Thrombocytosis (high blood platelet count) and leukocytosis (high white blood cell count) prior to surgery are associated with shorter life expectancy.

Treatment and Life Expectancy

In developing a treatment strategy, your doctor will choose treatments that he or she believes will have the most positive impact on your life expectancy with the least physical side effects. He or she will take into account all the factors and develop a treatment strategy that will balance risk versus reward.

Multimodal Therapy

Medical studies show that multimodal therapy has the most positive impact on mesothelioma life expectancy. However, this type of treatment strategy is usually considered aggressive and places a tremendous strain on the body. Based on your situation, you may not qualify for this type of treatment.
Generally, to qualify for multimodal therapy, the cancer must be in stage I or stage II. Some stage III patients qualify, too, if they are in otherwise good health, are relatively younger and have an epithelial or biphasic tumor type.

High-Dose Radiation

Doctors in Italy have conducted a study showing impressive results from a new high-dose radiation system following aggressive pleurectomy/decortication surgery. The two-year survival rate was 70 percent.

Alternative Therapy

Studies show that mesothelioma patients have benefitted from alternative or complementary therapies such as acupuncture, meditation, massage and yoga. These therapies may reduce stress, pain and improve quality of life.

Diet & Nutrition

In addition, a number of dietary changes can affect a mesothelioma patient's life expectancy. Considering nutrition in the treatment plan could have positive impacts on side effects, stress levels and response to treatment.

Experimental Treatments

There is a chance that your best opportunity at a longer life could come from experimental treatment in a clinical trial. Mesothelioma researchers constantly test new medications and treatment approaches, and clinical trials allow patients to take advantage of new treatments that may extend survival. Unfortunately, new treatment may also come with a higher element of risk.
There are several experimental therapies being investigated to slow the progress of mesothelioma. Some show promise in extending life expectancy, including immunotherapy and photodynamic therapy (PDT). Newer, targeted drugs that are effective in killing cancer cells — such as gene therapy — may soon extend life expectancy.
Medical advancements continue to refine methods of detecting and managing the disease. As a result, the life span of its sufferers is gradually improving. As more research is done and more alternative treatment options are explored, mesothelioma patients are being offered a wider range of choices that may ultimately modify their prognosis and significantly extend their life spans.

Survivor Stories

Karen Selby, Patient Advocate
Karen Selby talks about what she would say to someone who was just diagnosed with mesothelioma.
Many long-term survivors seem to have a unifying link: They integrate holistic and natural medicine into a traditional treatment plan. Nutritional regimens, supplementation and alternative therapies like acupuncture are among the holistic approaches mesothelioma survivors have used to their advantage. A number of mesothelioma patients have survived five years or longer because of their treatment, exercise and nutritional regimens.
Paul Kraus is an Australian factory worker who was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in 1997. Kraus applied several different therapies and lifestyle changes, including shifting to a vegetarian diet and taking nutritional supplements. He still has mesothelioma but is pain-free. At the extreme limit of mesothelioma survival is the case of acclaimed American scientist Stephen J. Gould, who lived for 20 years after being diagnosed. He died of an unrelated condition and authored a popular article about mesothelioma statistics that inspires patients to remain hopeful because each case is so unique.

Additional Resources

Karen Selby


Karen Selby

Karen Selby is a registered nurse and a Patient Advocate at The Mesothelioma Center. She worked in several subspecialties within nursing before joining in 2009.

Mesothelioma Prognosis

Mesothelioma Prognosis


Mesothelioma Prognosis

Your prognosis with mesothelioma depends mostly on the stage and type of cancer you have. Improving that prognosis can depend on finding a specialist with experience treating your form of the disease.

Typical Prognosis

Improving your prognosis starts with having the right information

Free Mesothelioma Packet Get Your Free Guide Now
Cancer specialists diagnose between 2,000 and 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma a year in the United States. When they confirm the existence of asbestos cancer, they quickly turn to prognosis — their best estimate of your battle ahead and also the probable outcome. Mesothelioma is a difficult disease to beat. And while there are many aspects to it that you can't control, there are things that you can do to help improve your quality of life and possibly improve your survival.
Although prognosis varies greatly depending on the factors described above, younger patients appear to have the most optimistic prognosis. A 2,959-patient study conducted by the American Cancer Society (ACS) noted that nearly 37 percent of mesothelioma patients younger than 45 years old survived for more than five years after diagnosis.
Approximately 20 percent of patients aged 45 to 54 survived for longer than five years. According to a study published by the Journal of Thoracic Oncology, the survival rate for patients is generally considered to be one year.

Patients Surviving 3 or More Years Following a Mesothelioma Diagnosis (%)

Mesothelioma Prognosis 5 Year survival rate pie charts
Although the typical survival rate for patients is low, there have been long-term survivors of the disease. Read their survival stories on our Wall of Hope.

Factors That Affect Your Prognosis

Dr. Fontaine Video Thumbnail
Dr. Fontaine explains what treatments give patients the best chance to live longer
Your mesothelioma prognosis depends on several factors, including the cancer's stage, plus your age, gender, overall health and history of asbestos exposure. Unique qualities of your cancer at the time of diagnosis such as the exact type of cancer you have, the cellular subtype, the stage of your cancer and whether your cancer has spread are all equally important in shaping prognosis.
These things also determine the treatments your doctor will recommend.
  • Types
  • Stages
  • Cell Type
  • Symptoms
  • Health
  • Other Factors
  • Type of Mesothelioma

    There are several types of mesothelioma, each with its own prognosis. Statistically speaking, peritoneal patients have a better chance at long-term survival than those with any other type.
    Research shows that approximately 40 percent of patients with the pleural form of the disease will survive for one year after diagnosis, while new treatments for peritoneal like heated chemotherapy have increased survival to more than seven years for some patients.
    Pleural Mesothelioma 5-Year Survival Chart
    10 percent of pleural mesothelioma patients survive > 5 years
    The prognosis for pericardial mesothelioma is generally worse than for pleural and peritoneal. And while testicular mesothelioma is the rarest type, its prognosis is typically the best.
  • Stage of Mesothelioma

    The size of a tumor and how far it has spread (metastasized) from its original location affects prognosis. Doctors typically discuss tumor size and the extent of a cancer's spread in terms of stages, ranging from stage I to stage IV in order of severity. Patients with stage I or stage II (early-stage) will typically have a better prognosis than patients with stage III or stage IV (advanced).
    In stage I and II, the cancer hasn’t metastasized much and remains contained within the lung lining and lung tissue, allowing for easier removal of tumors through surgery. By stage III, the cancer is still operable, but has metastasized beyond the lung and its lining and into the chest wall, nearby lymph nodes or the heart’s lining. Metastasis at stage IV is so extensive — tumors spread beyond the chest and into the spine, abdomen or other body parts — that surgery becomes ineffective.
  • Cell Type Impacts Survival

    The type of cells that make up your tumor, what doctors call histology, can impact your prognosis. Patients with epithelial mesothelioma generally have a better life expectancy than those with either the sarcomatoid or biphasic subtypes.
  • Progression of Symptoms

    Patients suffering from serious symptoms, like severe chest pain or difficulty breathing, may have a worse outlook. This is because the presence of symptoms often means cancer has already progressed to a later stage of development.
  • Overall Health

    People in otherwise good health may qualify for treatments that are more intensive. On the other hand, if you have pre-existing health issues, you may not be able to tolerate aggressive surgery or chemotherapy. Additionally, non-smokers often have a better mesothelioma prognosis than patients who smoke.
  • Additional factors, such as age, gender and history of asbestos exposure can also affect your prognosis.

    Favorable Prognostic Factors Poor Prognostic Factors
    Stage I or Stage II cancer Stage III or Stage IV cancer
    Tumor located in one area of the body Tumor has spread to other parts of the body
    Good overall health Pre-existing health conditions or poor overall health
    Epithelial cell type Sarcomatoid or biphasic cell type
    Age 55 or below Over age 55
    Non-smoker Smoker
    Female Male
Current Prognosis Studies: As results from ongoing asbestos-related cancer studies surface, doctors learn more about the diseases. New data leads to more accurate prognosis estimates. New research on cases reported to the National Cancer Institute from 2003 to 2009 show that 14.1 percent of women with pleural mesothelioma survive for five years, compared with only 6 percent of men. Additionally, a 2011 pleural mesothelioma study at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Massachusetts involving 636 patients found that patients who underwent an aggressive surgery called extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) experienced extended survival.
Another surgery called pleurectomy/decortication (P/D) has improved survival. A 2012 European study reported longer survival among epithelioid pleural mesothelioma patients who had a pleurectomy/decortication (P/D) surgery versus EPP surgery. Patients who had a P/D lived an average of 30 months while EPP patients lived for 14 months.
A 2015 Italian study found that age, epithelioid cell type and cancer-free lymph nodes were prognostic factors associated with long-term survival in pleural mesothelioma patients who had an EPP. Nearly 23 percent of the study’s 468 participants lived longer than three years.

Improving and Beating Your Prognosis

While you can't change important prognostic factors like your age, gender or cancer stage, you can choose to be proactive and take steps to improve your prognosis.

Find a Mesothelioma Specialist

A specialist is essential in providing you or a loved one with a treatment plan that can improve your life expectancy.
Find a Specialist
Beating the typical prognosis is happening more frequently with advances in treatment and care for mesothelioma patients. Survivors credit life span increases to multimodal treatment, improvements in nutrition and complementary medicines. There are other factors and ways that can play a part in improving a patient's prognosis.

Early Detection

Those diagnosed early in the cancer’s development have the best prognosis and longest survival. If doctors can diagnose the disease before it spreads into lymph nodes and to other parts of the body, treatment is more successful.

Other Ways

Enrolling in a clinical trial might improve your prognosis. These studies test up-and-coming therapies that may be more effective than current treatment options.
Once you've started treatment, you can take a few extra steps to improve your chances of recovery. If you're a smoker, find a cessation program. Smoking increases your risk of lung complications if you opt for surgery, so you should stop immediately. You can also talk to an oncology dietitian about how to strengthen your body through your diet, or ask your practitioner about complementary therapies that can help control your symptoms.

Survivors Who Have Surpassed Their Prognosis

Living with mesothelioma is far from easy, but not impossible. The latest treatment regimens, which often combine surgery with chemotherapy and radiation therapy, have helped many people survive past the disease's average life expectancy of one year. In some exceptional cases, mesothelioma survivors have lived with the cancer for more than a decade.
  • Judy G.
  • Wayne N.
  • Kasie Coleman
  • Judy G.

    Judy Glezinkski & Mesothelioma
    Judy, diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in 1990, survived nearly 20 years. She extended her prognosis with extensive surgeries and radiation therapy. She also drank mangosteen juice and believed in the power of prayer. Judy shared her journey with the mesothelioma community in a book, Surviving Mesothelioma: Making your Own Miracle.
  • Wayne N.

    Wayne Neal & Mesothelioma
    Wayne, another 20-year survivor, is a former union electrician who was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in 1991. Still fighting, Wayne attributes his success to antioxidants found in red tart cherries, which he eats nightly.
  • Kasie Coleman

    Kasie Coleman Mesothelioma Survivor
    Kasie Coleman is a wife and mother of two who was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in 2010. After a series of misdiagnoses, Kasie opted for several cycles of chemotherapy and two HIPEC (surgery with heated chemotherapy) treatments that put her cancer into remission in 2012. Since then, she has opened her own cupcake bakery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
    In one of several blogs she's written for The Mesothelioma Center, Kasie stresses the importance of keeping a positive attitude and viewing yourself as an exception to mesothelioma's bleak prognosis. Hold tight to the hope that you'll join the growing community of remarkable mesothelioma survivors.

Additional Resources

Karen Selby


Karen Selby

Karen Selby is a registered nurse and a Patient Advocate at The Mesothelioma Center. She worked in several subspecialties within nursing before joining in 2009.