Malignant mesothelioma: Ongoing controversies about its etiology in females

Am J Ind Med. 2021 Jul;64(7):543-550. doi: 10.1002/ajim.23257. Epub 2021 May 25.


Malignant mesothelioma (MM) is one of the most aggressive cancers with the poorest of outcomes. There is no doubt that mesothelioma in males is related to asbestos exposure, but some authors suggest that most of the cases diagnosed in females are "idiopathic." In our assessment of the science, the "low risk" of mesothelioma in females is because of the nonsystematic recording of exposure histories among females. Indeed, asbestos exposure is mentioned in only some of the studies that include females. We estimate the risk of MM among females to be close to that in males. The absence of detailed exposure histories should be rectified in future studies involving ​women. As a matter of social justice, the ongoing failure to recognize asbestos as the cause of a majority of cases of MM in females does them, and their kin, a profound disservice.

Keywords: asbestos; etiology; exposure history; mesothelioma; women.

MeSH terms

  • Asbestos* / toxicity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Mesothelioma* / epidemiology
  • Mesothelioma* / etiology
  • Mesothelioma, Malignant*
  • Occupational Exposure* / adverse effects
  • Pleural Neoplasms*


  • Asbestos