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Mesothelioma Cancer Statistics

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 2021, 142 Victorians were diagnosed with mesothelioma. Of these, there were 106 males and 36 females, representing 74.6% and 25.4% of the total Victorian mesothelioma diagnoses, respectively. Currently, mesothelioma is diagnosed at a rate of 1.3 per 100,000 males and 0.5 per 100,000 females. The median age at diagnosis of mesothelioma is 73 years in males and 72 in females (Figure 1 & 2). Accounting for 0.4% of all cancers diagnosed and 1.1% of all cancer-related deaths in 2021, mesothelioma was the 32nd most commonly diagnosed cancer and the 23rd most common cause of cancer-related deaths in Victoria.

Figure 1: Distribution of mesothelioma incidence in 2021, by sex within age groups

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2023)

Figure 2: Distribution of mesothelioma incidence in 2021, compared to the distribution of the Victorian population in 2021, by 5-year age brackets

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2023)

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 2017-2021, by location of residence in Victoria

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2023)

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 2017 to 2021. The highest age standardised incidence rate for mesothelioma was 2.4 for males born in the UK and Ireland region and the lowest rate of 0.2 was observed in males born in the North-East Asia region. The highest age standardised incidence rate for mesothelioma was 0.8 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 2017-2021, by sex

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2023)

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2023)

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 increased for mesothelioma between 1986-1990 and 2016-2020 from 6% to 9%.

Figure 6: Trend in five year relative survival following diagnosis of mesothelioma in five year brackets, from the period 1986-1990 to 2016-2020

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2023)

This webpage was last updated in February 2023