Mesothelioma is primarily considered a “male cancer.” This characterization is due to the disease’s origin (exposure to asbestos) and situations where that origin could occur (blue-collar occupational work).

Since mesothelioma mostly affects men, most of the studies and statistics revolve around this gender. However, females can — and often do — develop this cancer. Therefore, more research into how this cancer affects women is needed.

Duke University Hospital researchers recently published a report focusing solely on mesothelioma cases involving women. This study, which was published in the American Journal of Surgical Pathology, details which form of mesothelioma most often affects this gender.


Which Type of Mesothelioma Do Women Get?

The Duke University research team studied 354 cases of malignant mesothelioma in women. Of them, around 78% of them were pleural mesothelioma and 22% were peritoneal mesothelioma.

Pleural mesothelioma forms when asbestos fibers reach the pleura, which is a cavity separating the lungs and chest wall. Peritoneal mesothelioma forms when asbestos dust reaches the peritoneum, which is a thin membrane covering the abdomen.

This breakdown is surprisingly consistent with that of males (around 80% for pleural and 20% for peritoneal). The shock is due to previous studies showing women as more likely than men to get peritoneal mesothelioma.

In a Lung Cancer International study from 2017, males comprised 81% of all pleural mesothelioma cases. However, the split was close to 50-50 for peritoneal mesothelioma cases.

The team at Duke University did mention in their report a “trend toward … peritoneal location” but added it “did not reach statistical significance.”

The study also found that women mostly get the epithelioid cellular variation of mesothelioma. In fact, according to the study’s results, they are more likely than men to get this type of the cancer. This news is fortunate for women as epithelioid mesothelioma is more easily treated than the other two cellular types: sarcomatoid and biphasic.

Exposure to asbestos is the only way people can develop mesothelioma, and this substance was used for commercial purposes through most of the 20th century. The prevalence of asbestos in numerous occupations put not only the workers but their wives, daughters, mothers and other female loved ones in danger.

If you’re one of the women with mesothelioma and you’re unsure how you were exposed to asbestos, we can help. Our team has a list of asbestos exposure sites and can connect your or your family’s work history to one or multiple of these locations. Email our patient advocate and registered nurse, Jenna Campagna, at for further assistance.

Guide Packet Desktop Ad

Want to learn more?

Try Our Free Guide to Fighting Mesothelioma

Get in depth knowledge about your diagnosis & the best treatments.

Learn More
Guide Packet Mobile Ad

    Sources & Author

  1. Malignant Diffuse Mesothelioma in Women: A Study of 354 Cases. American Journal of Surgical Pathology. Retrieved from: Accessed: 01/02/20.
  2. Life Expectancy in Pleural and Peritoneal Mesothelioma. Lung Cancer International. Retrieved from: Accessed: 01/02/20.
Picture of Devin Golden

About the Writer, Devin Golden

Devin Golden is the content writer for Mesothelioma Guide. He produces mesothelioma-related content on various mediums, including the Mesothelioma Guide website and social media channels. Devin's objective is to translate complex information regarding mesothelioma into informative, easily absorbable content to help patients and their loved ones.