Mesothelioma (or mesothilioma) is generally the result of exposure to asbestos and is very difficult to detect in the early stages.
Malignant mesothelioma is an uncommon, but no longer rare, cancer that is difficult to diagnose and
poorly responsive to therapy. Malignant mesothelioma is the most serious of all asbestos-related diseases.
What is mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma (cancer of the mesothelium) is a disease in which cells of the mesothelium become abnormal and
divide without control or order. They can invade and damage nearby tissues and organs. Cancer cells can also
metastasize (spread) from their original site to other parts of the body. Most cases of mesothelioma begin in
the pleura or peritoneum.
How common is mesothelioma?
Although reported incidence rates have increased in the past 20 years, mesothelioma is still a relatively rare
cancer. About 2,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in the United States each year. Mesothelioma occurs
more often in men than in women and risk increases with age, but this disease can appear in either men or women at any age.
What are the risk factors for mesothelioma?
Working with asbestos is the major risk factor for mesothelioma. A history of asbestos exposure at work is
reported in about 70 percent to 80 percent of all cases. However, mesothelioma has been reported in some
individuals without any known exposure to asbestos.