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Pleural Mesothelioma Statistics & Facts

At least 75 percent of mesothelioma cases diagnosed every year develop in the pleura. Facts and statistics help patients understand who gets pleural mesothelioma and how it is treated.

Many years of scientific research have proven exposure to asbestos is the primary cause of pleural mesothelioma.

In 1935, a pathologist in London was the first to suggest a connection between asbestos exposure and pleural mesothelioma. Research has since shown that 2-18 percent of workers heavily exposed to amphibole asbestos end up developing pleural mesothelioma.

Surgical treatment of pleural mesothelioma began in the 1940s, radiation therapy began in 1950s and chemotherapy began in 1970s. In 2003, the FDA approved a combination of two chemotherapy drugs as the first official first-line treatment for mesothelioma.

Today, the cancer is primarily treated with chemotherapy, surgery and radiation therapy. Clinical trials are testing new treatment options, such as immunotherapy, with increasing success.

Pleural Mesothelioma Facts

Learning pleural mesothelioma facts helps patients understand more about the disease including who gets diagnosed, how it affects patients and the top treatments.

Who Gets Mesothelioma?

People who worked with asbestos products for years have the highest risk of developing pleural mesothelioma. Jobs in the following industries were among the most likely to expose workers to asbestos:

What Are the Most Common Symptoms?

The most common pleural mesothelioma symptoms include:

Symptoms of pleural mesothelioma typically do not develop until the cancer has reached stage 3 or 4. Difficulty breathing and chest-wall pain are the two most common initial symptoms. At least one of these symptoms occurs in 60-90 percent of pleural patients.

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How Does Cell Type Affect Patients?

Pleural tumors are composed of cells that fall into different categories including epithelial and sarcomatoid.

What Are the Most Common Treatments?

The only FDA-approved treatment for pleural mesothelioma is chemotherapy with cisplatin and Alimta (pemetrexed).

What Factors Affect Prognosis?

Several factors play a role in how long people live with pleural mesothelioma:

Pleural Mesothelioma Statistics

Learning more about pleural mesothelioma statistics gives patients a better grasp on how rare the cancer is, how much time passes before it begins to develop and how long most people live with it.

What Is the Incidence?

Pleural mesothelioma makes up approximately 75 percent of the 3,000 cases of mesothelioma diagnosed every year in the United States.

According to a 2015 study that evaluated more than 14,000 cases of pleural mesothelioma diagnosed between 1973 and 2009:

What Is the Latency Period?

The latency period is the time it takes for inhaled asbestos fibers to cause the damage that leads to mesothelioma. The latency period for pleural mesothelioma is slightly longer on average compared to peritoneal mesothelioma.

What Is the Survival Rate?

Most people with pleural mesothelioma live less than a year after diagnosis. A 2010 study evaluated nearly 10,000 pleural mesothelioma cases and reported the following overall survival rates:

A 2016 study published in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology broke pleural mesothelioma survival down by stage at diagnosis.

Stage Survival Time
Stage 1 22.2 months
Stage 2 20 months
Stage 3 17.9 months
Stage 4 14.9 months

More Pleural Mesothelioma Resources

Pleural mesothelioma resources offer evidence-based information about the cancer. The resources on these pages will help you understand what the cancer is, how it is treated and what you can do to live longer.

Snehal Smart, M.D.

Snehal Smart, M.D.

Snehal Smart is the Pleural Mesothelioma Center’s in-house medical doctor, serving as both an experienced Patient Advocate and an expert medical writer for the website. When she is not providing one-on-one assistance to patients, Dr. Snehal stays current on the latest medical research, reading peer-reviewed studies and interviewing oncologists to learn about advancements in diagnostic tools and cancer treatments.

Medically Reviewed By Dr. Joanne Getsy
Last Modified February 4, 2019

11 Cited Article Sources

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  2. Beebe-Dimmer, J.L. et al. (2016).Mesothelioma in the United States: a Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER)–Medicare investigation of treatment patterns and overall survival. Retrieved from
  3. Smith, D.D. The History of Mesothelioma. In Pass, Harvey I., Vogelzang, N., & Carbone, M. (Eds.), Malignant Mesothelioma (pp. 3-17). New York, NY: Springer Science+Business Media, Inc., 2005. Attanoos, R.L. et al. (2018). Malignant Mesothelioma and Its Non-Asbestos Causes. Retrieved from
  4. Taioli, E. et al. (2015). Determinants of Survival in Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma: A Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Study of 14,228 Patients. Retrieved from
  5. Milano, M.T. & Zhang, H. (2010).Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma: A Population-Based Study of Survival. Retrieved from
  6. Nowak, A.K. et al. (2016). The IASLC Mesothelioma Staging Project: Proposals for Revisions of the T Descriptors in the Forthcoming Eighth Edition of the TNM Classification for Pleural Mesothelioma. Retrieved from
  7. Baldi, A. (Ed.). Mesothelioma from Bench Side to Clinic. New York: Nova Biomedical Books, 2008
  8. Klein, R. et al. (2009). Cost-Effectiveness of Pemetrexed Plus Cisplatin as First-Line Therapy for Advanced Nonsquamous Non-small Cell Lung Cancer. Retrieved from
  9. Warren, J.L. et al. (2008). Evaluation of Trends in the Cost of Initial Cancer Treatment. Retrieved from
  10. Salamon, M. (2016, December 23). Lung-Sparing Surgery May Boost Mesothelioma Survival. Retrieved from
  11. Tan, W. et al. (2017, November 14). Mesothelioma Clinical Presentation. Retrieved from

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