Minnesota Department Of Health On Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma: Facts & Figures

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About the Cancer Data

What is mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a cancer in which cells of the mesothelium, a protective sac covering most of the body’s internal organs (including the lining of the chest, abdomen, and the space around the heart) become abnormal and grow without control. There are three types of mesothelioma:

What are the risk factors of mesothelioma?

  • Exposure to airborne asbestos: Exposure to asbestos, a naturally-occurring mineral, is the primary risk factor. Asbestos was widely used in commercial products prior to the 1970s. Because the time period from exposure to diagnosis is long (often 30 to 50 years), mesothelioma is rare in a person under age 45. Exposure to asbestos also greatly increases the risk of lung cancer, especially among smokers.
  • Gender: Males are more likely to be diagnosed with mesothelioma because occupations or industries that historically used asbestos were predominately held by males (e.g., ship building, pipe fitting, mining, insulation, brake repair, and cement work).