Malignant mesothelioma

Intern Med J. 2010 Nov;40(11):742-50. doi: 10.1111/j.1445-5994.2010.02223.x.


Malignant mesothelioma (MM) is an aggressive tumour that commonly affects the mesothelial surfaces of the pleural and peritoneal cavities, and occasionally, the tunica vaginalis and the pericardium. Formerly a rare tumour, MM is increasing in incidence in Australia due to the heavy nationwide use of asbestos from 1940 until the 1980s. The incidence is expected to peak in Australia in the next decade, mirroring the long latency period between asbestos exposure and development of MM. Diagnosis of MM can be difficult. Definitive pathological diagnosis is required and it often requires an experienced pathologist to differentiate MM from other benign or malignant processes. Treatment of MM requires a multidisciplinary approach, regardless of palliative or curative intent. Treatment options, such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and active symptom control or a combination of these, may be used. Further research is needed to advance the therapeutic options for MM, and strategies to realize personalisation of therapy through discovery of predictive markers. In the Australian society where asbestos contamination of the built environment is very high, education and stringent public health measures are required to prevent a second wave of increased MM incidence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Asbestos / toxicity*
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Mesothelioma / epidemiology*
  • Mesothelioma / etiology*
  • Mesothelioma / therapy


  • Asbestos