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How Common is Mesothelioma?

Australia has one of the highest rates of mesothelioma in the world, with 732 Australians diagnosed in 2014. Of these, more than 93% had pleural mesothelioma, about 6% had peritoneal mesothelioma, and about 1% had a rarer type.

Men are over three times more likely than women to be diagnosed with mesothelioma, probably because many cases have been caused by exposure to asbestos at work. Western Australia has the most cases per population due to past asbestos mining. Mesothelioma is more common in people over the age of 65, but can occur in younger people.

Mesothelioma in the United Kingdom

The information in this document relates to Health and Safety Statistics published by the Health and Safety Executive in 2016.


Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that takes many years to develop following the inhalation of asbestos fibres, but is usually rapidly fatal following symptom onset. Annual deaths in Britain increased steeply over the last 50 years, a consequence of mainly occupational asbestos exposures that occurred because of the widespread industrial use of asbestos during 1950-1980.

The latest information shows:

  • There were 2,595 mesothelioma deaths in Great Britain in 2016, broadly similar to the previous four years.
  • The latest projections suggest that there will continue to be around 2,500 deaths per year for the rest of this current decade before annual numbers begin to decline.
  • The continuing increase in annual mesothelioma deaths in recent years has been driven mainly by deaths among those aged 70 and above.
  • In 2016 there were 2,197 male deaths and 398 female deaths, broadly similar to the annual numbers among males and females in the previous four years.
  • There were 2,170 new cases of mesothelioma assessed for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB) in 2016 of which 240 were female, compared with 2,130 in 2015 of which 220 were female.
  • Men who worked in the building industry when asbestos was used extensively are now among those most at risk of mesothelioma.
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