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Mesothelioma


What is mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that starts from mesothelial cells. These cells line the outer surface of most of the body’s internal organs, forming a protective membrane called the mesothelium. Some mesotheliomas form a mass (tumour), while others grow along the mesothelium and form a thick covering. In later stages, mesothelioma may spread (metastasise) to other parts of the body.

You can access further information about mesothelioma, including risk factors, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment from Cancer Council Victoria. You can also call our trusted cancer nurses on 13 11 20 for support and to learn about our range of services for people affected by cancer.

The Victorian Cancer Registry also operates an interactive web portal, Data Explorer, which provides more trends and statistics than published here.

How common is mesothelioma?

In 2020, 187 Victorians were diagnosed with mesothelioma. Of these, there were 144 males and 43 females, representing 77% and 23% of the total Victorian mesothelioma diagnoses, respectively. Currently, mesothelioma is diagnosed at a rate of 1.9 per 100,000 males and 0.5 per 100,000 females. The median age at diagnosis of mesothelioma is 72 years in males and 72 in females (Figure 1 & 2). Accounting for 0.5% of all cancers diagnosed and 1.3% of all cancer-related deaths in 2020, mesothelioma was the 30th most commonly diagnosed cancer and the 23rd most common cause of cancer-related deaths in Victoria.


Figure 1: Distribution of mesothelioma incidence in 2020, by sex within age groups

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2022)


Figure 2: Distribution of mesothelioma incidence in 2020, compared to the distribution of the Victorian population in 2020, by 5-year age brackets

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2022)

Geographical variance in mesothelioma by local government area

Figure 4 demonstrates variation in age-standardised incidence rates of mesothelioma, by local government areas. Darker shading indicates areas with higher rates of mesothelioma.


Figure 4: Variation in the incidence of mesothelioma for the period 2016-2020, by location of residence in Victoria

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2022)


Mesothelioma in people born overseas

Figure 5 shows the age standardised incidence rates of mesothelioma in Australian-born Victorians compared to other major migrant groups, over the five-year period 2016 to 2020. The highest age standardised incidence rate for mesothelioma was 2.2 for males born in the UK and Ireland region and the lowest rate of 0.1 was observed in males born in the South-East Asia region. The highest age standardised incidence rate for mesothelioma was 0.6 for females born in the UK and Ireland region and the lowest rate of 0.1 was observed in females born in the Middle East and North Africa region.


Figure 5: Age standardised incidence rates and 95% confidence intervals for mesothelioma in Victorians born in Australia compared to Victorians born in other countries for the period 2016-2020, by sex

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2022)


Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2022)



Mesothelioma five-year relative survival

Figure 6 shows the change in 5-year survival for mesothelioma, and the 5-year survival trend for all cancers over the same time period. It demonstrates that five-year relative survival has remained constant for mesothelioma between 1985-1989 and 2015-2019 at 7%.

Figure 6: Trend in five year relative survival following diagnosis of mesothelioma in five year brackets, from the period 1985-1989 to 2015-2019

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2022)

This webpage was last updated in May 2022