The diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma can pose several problems to the surgical pathologist. First, the morphological appearances of the tumour are known to be diverse with mimicry of a range of both reactive and neoplastic conditions. Second, due to the relative inaccessibility of the serosa, biopsy material is often scanty and fragmentary, producing a plethora of interpretive ambiguities. Third, adjunct techniques such as mucin histochemistry and immunohistochemistry, whilst useful in excluding malignant mesothelioma have little role in confirming the diagnosis. The accurate diagnosis of diffuse malignant mesothelioma is important for two reasons: (1) In relation to prognosis as it has an almost invariable fatal outcome, which contrasts with the other mesothelial neoplasms such as the benign adenomatoid tumour and the borderline malignant tumours, namely the well-differentiated papillary mesothelioma and multicystic mesothelioma; (2) In relation to occupational-related compensation claims following asbestos exposure. This review summarizes the aetiology of asbestos-induced neoplasia, possible mechanisms of tumour development and highlights potential diagnostic pitfalls.