Mesothelioma Survival Rates & Statistics by Age, Gender & Race
06 Aug

Mesothelioma Survival Rates & Statistics by Age, Gender & Race

Mesothelioma Survival Rates & Statistics by Age, Gender & Race About 38-46 percent of early-stage pleural mesothelioma patients survive two years after diagnosis, and 10-16 percent survive five years, according to the American Cancer Society. For late-stage patients, 17-30 percent survive two years, and 1-8 percent survive five years.

Approximately 55 percent of mesothelioma patients live longer than 6 months, while roughly 35 percent live longer than one year. Only 9 percent of people diagnosed with mesothelioma survive longer than 5 years.


What Is Survival Rate?

Median survival rate refers to the percentage of people who live a certain amount of time after receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis. The 5-year survival rate is a standard statistic used for many types of cancer. However, because mesothelioma cancer is so deadly, many people also refer to 1-year survival rates, as well.

Survival rate should not be confused with life expectancy, which refers to the average length of time patients with mesothelioma live. Together, both of these statistics can provide information about an individual’s prognosis.

Survival rate also should not be confused with mesothelioma mortality rate. Mortality rate is a statistic used by health organizations and governmental agencies to understand the prevalence of a disease in a given area (such as a country, state or city).


Historically, survival rates for mesothelioma are measured in terms of one-year survival. However, more mesothelioma patients are beating the odds and living far beyond median survival rates thanks to advances in treatment.

Additionally, five-year survival for mesothelioma patients has steadily improved since 1999, according to the latest report from the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program.

Long-term survivors attribute their success to a multidisciplinary approach to treatment from mesothelioma specialists, alternative medicine, clinical trials and nutritional changes.

Mesothelioma Survival Rate vs. Life Expectancy

While these terms are often used interchangeably, mesothelioma life expectancy and survival rates carry different meanings.

Life expectancy refers to the average age a person is expected to live based on the year they were born, where they were born and other demographic factors. An aggressive cancer, such as mesothelioma, can shorten this average.

Survival rates come into play after a person is diagnosed with cancer or another serious health condition. These rates show the percentage of patients in a study or treatment group who are still alive for a certain period of time following a diagnosis.

Researchers usually describe the mesothelioma survival rate in terms of one-year survival. They also measure the percentage of patients who live two years, three years and five years.

Mesothelioma has no definitive cure. Most cases are diagnosed in a late stage, after tumors have spread. This is a main reason why survival rates are generally lower compared to other cancers.


Survival Rates for Mesothelioma

The latest data shows better survival rates than ever. Specifically, a 2015 meta-study looked at 20 years worth of results from 1992 – 2012, and during that period the two major forms of mesothelioma (pleural and peritoneal) have both seen an improvement in survivorship.

According to the study, survival for peritoneal mesothelioma patients has shown significant improvement, largely due to new forms of treatment, such as hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC).

Mesothelioma Survival Rate by TypeLife Expectancy by Mesothelioma Cell Type
Pleural Peritoneal Pericardial
1 year 73% 92% 51%
3 years 23% 74% 26%
5 years 12% 65% 23%
10 years 4.7% 39% (N/A)

While the numbers above encompass all people who are diagnosed with mesothelioma, the survival rate can change significantly based on various factors. The two most substantial of these are age and gender:

  • Age – Older patients have a lower 5-year survival rate than younger patients
  • Gender –Women with mesothelioma have a higher 5-year survival rate than men
5-Year Mesothelioma Survival Rate by Age and SexLife Expectancy by Age and Sex
Age at Diagnosis Male Female
Ages <45 34.8% 54.1%
Ages 45 – 54 17.3% 27.5%
Ages 55 – 64 10.4% 17.6%
Ages 65 – 74 6.6% 13%
Ages 75+ 2.9% 5.2%

Other factors that affect mesothelioma survival rates include:

  • Location – pleural mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma, or pericardial mesothelioma
  • Cell Type – epithelioid mesothelioma, sarcomatoid mesothelioma, or biphasic mesothelioma
  • Stage of Disease – early stage or later stage
  • Genetics – such as BRCA1-associated protein-1 (BAP1)
  • Lifestyle Factors – such as smoking
  • Blood Counts – such as high levels of hemoglobin, platelets, or white blood cells
  • Overall Health – such as being overweight or having a compromised immune system

Improving Mesothelioma Survival

It is important to remember that a survival rate is a percentage based on many cases – it is not meant to indicate how long any certain individual will live. In many cases, you may be able to improve your chances at long-term survival after being diagnosed with mesothelioma.

For those with early stage mesothelioma (stage 1 or stage 2), undergoing aggressive treatment to remove tumors and organs containing cancer cells can lead to higher survival rates. Those who receive a later stage diagnosis (stage 3 or stage 4) may not have the same surgical options available – since the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes – but could still benefit from chemotherapy or radiation therapy treatments, which can extend their survivorship.

Mesothelioma Survival Rate by Treatment Type Mesothelioma Survival Rate by Treatment Type
Pleural Mesothelioma
Chemotherapy Only 2 years 19%
5 years 4%
Pleurectomy / Decortication (P/D) 2 years 40%
5 years 10%
Extrapleural Pneumonectomy (EPP) 2 years 37%
5 years 12%
Peritoneal Mesothelioma
CRS-207 + Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy (HIPEC) 5 years 50%

For pleural mesothelioma, patients who undergo a pleurectomy/decortication (P/D) or extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) – both of which are usually part of a multimodal treatment plan – generally have a much higher rate of survival than those who receive chemotherapy alone.

For peritoneal mesothelioma, patients who undergo cytoreductive surgery (CRS) with HIPEC have significantly higher rates of survival. When combined with systemic chemotherapy as an adjuvant treatment, the 5-year survival rate of patients who undergo CRS + HIPEC can be as high as 67%.


Factors that Affect Survival Rate

QUICK FACT

Current five-year survival for mesothelioma patients is around 9 percent. Around 67 percent of patients diagnosed with cancer of any other site survive at least five years.

Survival rates for mesothelioma cancer vary by the patient’s age, gender, race and several other factors. The location, stage and cell type of the cancer, as well as your overall health, have the strongest influence on your mesothelioma prognosis.

Age

Overall, older mesothelioma patients have a much lower survival rate than younger ones. More than 55 percent of patients diagnosed before the age of 50 live one year. Less than 30 percent of patients 75 or older live the same amount of time.

This difference is largely because younger patients are eligible for more intensive treatments such as surgery. Older individuals may not be candidates for these procedures because of poor overall health or a high risk of complications.

Mesothelioma One-Year Survival by Age Range

Age Range Survival Rate
< 50 57.2%
50 – 64 51.2%
65 – 74 40.9%
75+ 28.5%

Rates are similar for long-term survival. Patients diagnosed before age 50 have nearly a 25 percent chance of surviving a decade. That drops sharply — to 5.4 percent — for patients between the ages of 50 and 64.

However, it is rare for someone younger than 50 to be diagnosed with mesothelioma. The average age at diagnosis is 69.

The five-year survival rate for patients diagnosed between ages 65-74 is 6.7 percent. That rate falls to 3.8 percent for those 75 or older.


Mesothelioma Survivors

Numbers and statistics are one thing, but behind those numbers are real people. Some of those people have beat the odds and defied the dismal survival rates to become long-term mesothelioma survivors. Here are a few of those survivors’ stories.

Heather Von St. James – Diagnosed at the age of 36 with malignant pleural mesothelioma, Heather was given only 15 months to live. But determined to defy the statistics, she sought out a top mesothelioma doctor and underwent an aggressive surgery to rid her body of cancer. Now, as a 12-year survivor, Heather continues helping others who receive a mesothelioma diagnosis and advocating for a full ban on asbestos.

Mavis Nye – In June 2009, Mavis received a mesothelioma cancer diagnosis with a life expectancy of only three months. After trying to treat her cancer with standard chemotherapy drugs, Mavis took part in a clinical trial using the immunotherapy drug Keytruda. Now, Mavis is an 8-year survivor, even though the mesothelioma survival rate statistics gave her incredibly poor odds of surviving even one year.

Paul Cowley – Exposed to asbestos when he was very young, Paul was diagnosed in 2012 when he was only 34 with an extremely poor prognosis. With a wife and young son supporting him every step of the way, Paul underwent two aggressive surgeries in a six-month period to excise the tumors and surrounding organ tissue. Now, he has passed the 5-year survival mark that a relatively small number of mesothelioma patients ever reach.


FAQs About Mesothelioma Survival Rates

Is mesothelioma fatal?

Mesothelioma is almost always fatal, and as the survival rate statistics above show, about 90% of people diagnosed with the disease pass away within five years.

Because of this terrible truth, it is important to protect yourself and your loved ones from asbestos exposure, especially if you live in an older home or work at a job site where asbestos may be present. Also, it is incredibly important to get any symptoms of mesothelioma checked out right away, since diagnosis at an early stage is the best way to improve your chances at survival.

How long can you live with mesothelioma?

Most people diagnosed with mesothelioma live between 6 and 24 months. A small number of individuals (less than 10%) will live 5 years or longer.

However, it is important to note that every individual will have a different mesothelioma prognosis depending on a variety of factors, including:

  • Tumor location (pleural, peritoneal, or pericardial)
  • Stage of cancer (stage 1, stage 2, stage 3, or stage 4)
  • Mesothelioma cell type (epithelioid cells, sarcomatoid cells, or biphasic cells)
  • Patient’s age and sex
  • Lifestyle factors
  • Overall health

Your mesothelioma specialist will be able to give you specific information about your case.

Have a Question About Mesothelioma Survival Rates?

Jennifer Lucarelli is happy to help

How much should I trust survival rate statistics?

Mesothelioma survival rates are determined by a standard measure known as the relative 5-year survival rate, which indicates how many patients are still alive 5 years after being diagnosed with the disease.

According to the most reliable studies, the relative 5-year survival rate for mesothelioma is about 9 percent, which is better than it was a decade or more ago. However, this simplified number does not tell the whole story. As shown above, survival rate can depend heavily on the type of mesothelioma a person has, what treatment options are available to them, and certain other health and lifestyle factors.

Many different clinical trials and other studies are being conducted by the National Cancer Institute on an ongoing basis to identify the factors that affect survival rate and, hopefully, discover ways to increase survival among mesothelioma patients. The results of these studies can be helpful for patients who meet certain criteria, but they may not be useful for determining an overall survival rate across the broad spectrum of mesothelioma patients.

Therefore, while survival rate can be a useful statistic in some cases, it can be misleading in others. Cancer patients and loved ones should always rely on the advice and guidance provided by their doctors to understand how they can improve their prognosis and life expectancy, rather than looking to a single statistic.


Sex

Mesothelioma Survival Rates by Gender

Gender 1 Year 2 Years 3 Years 4 Years 5 Years
Males 37.6% 17.4% 10.4% 7.7% 5.9%
Females 45.4% 29.3% 22.2% 18.6% 16.0%

Women with mesothelioma have a nearly three-fold better survival rate compared to men. Researchers analyzed mesothelioma cases reported in the National Cancer Institute’s SEER database from 1988 to 2013. They found the overall five-year survival rate was 7 percent for men and 15 percent for women.

Most asbestos exposure occurs in the workplace. Industrial jobs traditionally held by men presented the highest risk. That helps explain why men account for the majority of all mesothelioma cases.

When asbestos use was far more pervasive decades ago, the few women who did develop a related illness were usually exposed because they lived near mines or factories that processed the mineral. Women also found themselves exposed by spouses, family members or friends who worked around asbestos and brought home the tiny fibers on their clothes.

Women with mesothelioma appear to survive longer than men regardless of age, cancer stage, race or type of treatment. For every age group studied in the SEER program, women fared significantly better than men.

There is currently no conclusive answer as to why. Some researchers believe the improved survival could be explained by hormonal differences between sexes.

Women are also more likely to be diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma. This type carries a better prognosis compared to the more common pleural type.


Race

Mesothelioma is almost exclusive to white individuals, who make up 95 percent of patients.

This vast difference may be in large part because black and Hispanic individuals are less likely to be diagnosed with any type of cancer, mesothelioma included. Data from SEER shows blacks and Hispanics account for only 8 percent of all cancer diagnoses.

Mesothelioma Survival Rates by Race

Race 1 Year 2 Years 3 Years 4 Years 5 Years
White* 39.7% 20.2% 12.9% 9.8% 7.8%
Black* 35.2% 21.4% 16% 14.3% 12%
*Data includes Hispanics

Race does not appear to impact mesothelioma survival rate much initially. It becomes a more telling factor as time passes. From three years on, the survival rate of white patients is slightly worse than black patients.

Five-year survival among whites is 7.8 percent, compared with 12 percent for blacks. After 10 years, only 4.4 percent of white patients survive, while 8.2 percent of blacks are alive a decade after diagnosis.

SEER data used to calculate these survival rates includes Hispanics among patients who identify as both black and white. Because mesothelioma is rarer among other races, reliable survival statistics are not available.

A 2015 study analyzed 13,734 pleural mesothelioma cases in the SEER database. It found that black patients lived longer than white patients despite being less likely to undergo aggressive surgery. Only 18 percent of black patients in the study had surgery, compared to 24 percent of white patients.

Typically, mesothelioma patients who have surgery survive longer than those who do not.