There are approximately 2000 new cases in the UK per year which is about 4 per 100,000 of population. The incidence has been steadily rising but now appears to have reached a peak.
Asbestos exposure which may have occurred 20-40 years previously. Those involved in the building trade when asbestos was a commonly used as roofing sheets and plasterers who did ceiling artexing; naval personnel and shipyard workers in contact with pipe lagging composed of asbestos; relatives in close contact with workers overalls leading to inhalation of fibres. Smoking in addition increased the risk. However in 10% of cases there is no known association with asbestos.
Rare other causes of mesothelioma include exposure to thorium dioxide and erionite fibres found in Turkey.
There are no known genetic risk factors.
There is no evidence that a deficiency or excess of any dietary foodstuffs plays a role in the prevention or treatment of this disease.
Symptoms and signs
Vague chest pains, breathlessness due to fluid in the lung or prevention of lung expansion, unexplained fevers or weight loss. Sometimes, the tumour is picked up on a routine chest x-ray.
The commonest type of mesothelioma involves the covering of the lungs. Surgery may be attempted to remove the lung and covering. If this is not possible then chemotherapy using a combination of a platinum compound and a newer drug called pemetrexed.