What is Mesothelioma

A primer of the different types of mesothelioma


Malignant Mesothelioma

Malignant mesothelioma is a rare cancer that develops in the thin layer of tissue, called the mesothelium, that surrounds most of the body’s internal organs. There are different types of mesothelioma, depending on which portion of the mesothelium is affected. The various types of mesothelioma include:

  • Pleural mesothelioma, which occurs in the tissue protecting the lungs and is the most prevalent form of the disease.
  • Peritoneal mesothelioma, which is found in the tissue surrounding the abdominal organs.
  • Pericardial mesothelioma, which is located in the tissue around the heart.
  • Mesothelioma of the tunica vaginalis, which is seen in the lining around the testicles.

According to the American Cancer Society, from 2,000 to 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma in the United States every year. Most of the deaths from mesothelioma are caused by exposure to asbestos that occurred decades ago. Because of the sharp decline in the use of asbestos over the last few years, researchers estimate that the number of mesothelioma deaths in this country will probably peak by the year 2010. It is thought that new cases of mesothelioma will continue to be the result of the extensive use of asbestos in the past. Of course, new cases may develop due to exposures to asbestos that occur during the demolition or repair of older, asbestos-contaminated buildings if proper care is not taken to protect workers and those living and working nearby.

Since 1971, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have attempted, with regulation, to reduce the amount of asbestos to which workers and the public are exposed. Still, as late as 2003, 20% of air samples studied by OSHA in the construction industry exceeded OSHA’s regulatory limits. In addition, though asbestos has been removed from many products that once contained the dangerous substance, asbestos is still being imported and used in the United States in a number of construction and transportation products. To be certain that deaths from mesothelioma do indeed decline, very careful control must be taken to prevent exposure to the asbestos that continues to be used in America.

Benign Pleural Mesothelioma

Benign pleural mesothelioma is a type of noncancerous (benign) tumor that sometimes occurs in the chest. Benign mesothelioma, however, does not generate from the same cells in which malignant mesothelioma begins. And in a small percentage of cases, benign mesothelioma is quite aggressive. Thus, the tumor is also known by a more descriptive name, “solitary fibrous tumor.”

Because solitary fibrous tumor usually does not cause symptoms, it generally is discovered during unrelated tests and procedures. Solitary fibrous tumor most often is treated with surgery. Unlike malignant mesothelioma, solitary fibrous tumor is not linked to asbestos exposure.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you shouldn’t hesitate to seek good legal representation to get the justice and compensation you deserve—and in the Northwest, Bergman Draper & Frockt is the leading mesothelioma law firm working for victims and their families. Visit their site today to schedule a free consultation.


KM Bang, PhD, JM Mazurek, MD, E Storey, MD, MD Attfield, PhD, PL Schleiff, MS, JM Wood, MS, Div of Respiratory Disease Studies, JT Wassell, PhD, Div of Safety Research, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, CDC, Vol. 302 No. 1, July 1, 2009 Malignant Mesothelioma Mortality—United States, 1999-2005 JAMA. 2009; 302(1): 25-26.