In the present study, malignant mesothelioma (MM) cases in Japan were investigated retrospectively. We extracted records for 6030 cases of death due to MM between 2003 and 2008 to clarify the clinical features of MM, including its association with asbestos exposure (AE). Of all these cases, a clinical diagnosis of MM was confirmed for 929. The origin of MM included the pleura in 794 cases (85.5%), the peritoneum in 123 cases (13.2%), the pericardium in seven cases (0.8%), and the testicular tunica vaginalis in five cases (0.5%). The histological subtypes of MM included 396 epithelioid (55.9%), 154 sarcomatoid (21.7%), 126 biphasic (17.8%), and 33 cases (4.7%) classified as "other types". Of all the MM cases, AE was indicated in 76.8% and pleural plaques were detected in 34.2%. The number of asbestos particles was determined in 103 cases of MM. More than 1000 asbestos particles per gram dried lung tissue were detected in 74.8% of cases and more than 5000 particles were detected in 43.7% of cases. We compared patient characteristics and the diagnostic procedures for MM before and after the "Kubota shock". Compared with the early phase of this study (2003-2005), the median age at diagnosis of MM was higher, the number of cases without definite diagnosis of MM was lower, the proportion of cases diagnosed by thoracoscopy was higher, and the percentage of cases in which the occupational history was described in the medical records was significantly higher in the later phase (2006-2008). Our study confirmed that more than 70% of MM cases in Japan are associated with AE. The "Kubota shock" may affect some features pertaining to MM.
© 2011 Japanese Cancer Association.