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Mesothelioma factsheet

Background on mesothelioma

Excellent information on mesothelioma is available from Cancer Council Victoria at:

Here you will find information about the disease, risk factors, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment. Cancer Council Victoria also offers cancer support services for Victorians affected by cancer. You can find this information at: or phone 13 11 20.

What is mesothelioma?

The statistics provided in this report include patients diagnosed with 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.

How common is mesothelioma?

In 2019, 159 Victorians were diagnosed with mesothelioma. Of these, there were 130 males and 29 females, representing 81.8% and 18.2% of the total Victorian mesothelioma diagnoses, respectively. The median age at diagnosis of mesothelioma is 72 years in males and 72 in females (Figure 1 & 2). Accounting for 0.4% of all cancers diagnosed and 1.4% of all cancer-related deaths in 2019, mesothelioma was the 31st most commonly diagnosed cancer and the 22nd most common cause of cancer-related deaths in Victoria.

Figure 1: Distribution of mesothelioma incidence in 2019, by sex within age groups

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2021)

Figure 2: Distribution of mesothelioma incidence in 2019 compared to the distribution of the Victorian population in 2019, by 5-year age brackets

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2021)

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: Distribution of mesothelioma incidence in 2019, by location of residence in Victoria

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2021)

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 2015 to 2019. 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 0.3 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 North-East Asia region.

Figure 5: Age standardised incidence rates and 95% confidence intervals for mesothelioma in Australia compared to other countries for the period 2015 - 2019, by sex

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2021)

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2021)

Mesothelioma five-year relative survival

Figure 6 demonstrates that five-year relative survival has increased for mesothelioma between 1989-1993 and 2014-2018 from 6% to 7%.

Figure 6: Trend in five year relative survival following diagnosis of mesothelioma in five year brackets, from the period 1989-1993 to 2014-2018

Source: Victorian Cancer Registry (2021)