Reviewing Twenty Years of Malignant Mesothelioma in American Women

Malignant Mesothelioma Mortality in American Women

A new study shows twenty years of national trends associated with an increase of mesothelioma deaths in American women.

Inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause malignant mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a rapidly progressing and lethal cancer. It occurs in the mesothelium, a thin layer of tissues surrounding internal organs. It is usually found in the chest and abdomen.

Patients with malignant mesothelioma have a poor prognosis. They have an average survival of one year from diagnosis. The estimated average timespan from initial asbestos exposure to death is 32 years.

Occupational asbestos exposure is most often reported in men. This is because they often work in industries such as construction and manufacturing. But American women are also at risk for asbestos fiber exposure. Though limited data exist on longer-term trends in mesothelioma deaths among women.

A new study shows national trends associated with mesothelioma deaths in American women. Results are from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Study data included National Vital Statistics System records from 1999 to 2020.

What do the numbers say?

The annual number of deaths among American women has increased over the last twenty years. In 1999 there were 489 mesothelioma deaths and in 2020 there were 614.

The largest number of deaths were those who worked in the health care industry and as homemakers. This suggests that efforts to limit asbestos exposure need to be maintained.

In the last twenty years, 12,227 malignant mesothelioma deaths occurred among women aged 25 years or more.

Mesothelioma deaths in American women were classified by type. There were 968 cases of pleural mesothelioma. 1,119 cases of peritoneal mesothelioma. 35 cases of pericardial mesothelioma. 1,385 cases of mesothelioma in other sites. And 8,842 mesothelioma cases in an unspecified location.

Despite the sharp decline in asbestos use, the findings in this report indicate that mesothelioma deaths among women continue to increase.

Clinicians should maintain a high index of suspicion for diseases caused by exposure to asbestos. Especially when evaluating workers at risk for occupational exposure or their family members.

Dr. Jacek Mazurek of the CDC notes “the continuing risk for potential exposure to asbestos fibers underscores the need for ongoing surveillance to monitor trends in malignant mesothelioma mortality.”

Capturing information on industry and occupation for mortality data can help to provide meaningful interpretation of national mesothelioma trends.


Mazurek, Jacek M., David J. Blackley, and David N. Weissman. “Malignant Mesothelioma Mortality in Women—United States, 1999–2020.” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 71, no. 19 (2022): 645. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9098251/


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