The incidence of malignant mesothelioma in Australia is among the highest in the world as a result of widespread use of asbestos by industry and in construction throughout the 20th century. The risk of developing malignant mesothelioma after asbestos exposure is dose-related; a transient, low dose exposure confers a correspondingly very low risk of disease. Malignant mesothelioma is a heterogeneous disease, partly explaining the limited role of biomarkers in screening and diagnosis. The prognosis remains poor, and early advice on medico-legal compensation and a collaborative team approach to managing malignant mesothelioma are both essential. Chemotherapy can have a modest treatment effect in some people. New therapies, such as immunotherapy, do not yet have a defined role in the treatment of malignant mesothelioma. As treatment options for malignant mesothelioma are limited and no cure is available, there is no established role for early detection or screening of at risk populations. A multidisciplinary approach to caring for patients with malignant mesothelioma and their carers is vital.
Keywords: Asbestosis; Environmental medicine; Mesothelioma; Neoplasms, epidemiology; Review article.