Written By: Camryn Keeble

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Risk Factors

Peritoneal mesothelioma risk factors are characteristics of a person’s life that can increase their chances of developing the rare cancer. The main risk factors for peritoneal mesothelioma are occupation, age, location, and whether they served in the U.S. military.

Karen Ritter, RN BSN

Medically Reviewed By

Karen Ritter, RN BSN

Registered Nurse

Karen Ritter, RN BSN

Medically Reviewed By

Karen Ritter, RN BSN

Registered Nurse


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Important Facts About Peritoneal Mesothelioma Risk Factors

  • The main risk factor for peritoneal mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. It is the only cause of mesothelioma.
  • All other peritoneal mesothelioma risk factors are related to the probability of asbestos exposure: military service, use of talc products, occupation, gender, residency and age.
  • Males are often most susceptible to asbestos exposure due to the likelihood of working in at-risk occupations, such as construction, the military.

Why Asbestos is the Main Risk Factor for Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Asbestos exposure is the only cause of peritoneal mesothelioma, which is a rare cancer that forms in the lining of the abdomen. Asbestos, a naturally forming mineral found in the earth’s soil, is inexpensive, durable and fire-resistant, which made it a valuable component in home and office construction during the 20th century. Asbestos was often mixed with paint, manufactured into roof shingles, floor tiles, and siding, used for electrical wiring insulation, added to automobile brakes, and more.

While asbestos is known to improve the durability of homes, buildings, vehicles or Navy ships, it’s also known to cause cancer. When asbestos breaks apart, microscopic and sharp fibers enter the air.

These fibers can be inhaled (breathed in) or ingested (swallowed). If the fibers travel through the body, they can get stuck in a thin lining called the peritoneum. The peritoneum is a sheet-like membrane lining the abdominal cavity.

Asbestos fibers lodged in this lining can lead to cell mutation and cancer formation. Cancer that originates in the peritoneum is called peritoneal mesothelioma.

Peritoneal mesothelioma only accounts for around 10%-20% of all mesothelioma cases. There are fewer than 1,000 diagnosed cases of peritoneal mesothelioma in the U.S. each year.

What Are Other Peritoneal Mesothelioma Risk Factors?

Many primary risk factors for peritoneal mesothelioma are associated with the likelihood of asbestos exposure. There are certain occupations more likely to handle asbestos or work near asbestos in a building, automobile, plane or ship.

The top peritoneal mesothelioma risk factors are listed below:

  • Age – Peritoneal mesothelioma takes 20-50 years to develop after the fibers are lodged in the peritoneum and mutate into cancer, so people with this cancer are often in their 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. The average age when people are diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma is 57. This average age is younger than that for pleural mesothelioma.
  • Military serviceMilitary veterans in the U.S. make up 30% of mesothelioma cases and nearly half of peritoneal mesothelioma cases. Asbestos was heavily used during World War II and after to build durable ships and aircrafts. The mineral was also used in foreign countries, and disturbed asbestos was likely present in war zones due to gunfire and bombings.
  • Occupation – Construction, insulation, electrical, automobile repair, shipbuilding and other jobs were at-risk for potential asbestos exposure.
  • Location – Some rural areas, such as Libby, Montana, were sites of large asbestos deposits and asbestos mining. These were areas of environmental exposure, which put all residents and visitors at risk.
  • Gender – Men worked in occupations at risk for asbestos exposure more than women did, which also led to males accounting for nearly 60% of peritoneal mesothelioma cases. According to one study, 56% of people with peritoneal mesothelioma are male. This is much lower than for pleural mesothelioma (around 80% are male).
  • Talcum powder use – Talc is a naturally occurring mineral just like asbestos, and the two are often mined in close proximity to each other, which means contamination can happen. After mining, talc is ground into a white powder called talcum powder. Talc or talcum powder is a key ingredient in many health and beauty products for its ability to absorb moisture. However, many tests confirmed asbestos-contaminated talc was present in several products available on the market for consumers to buy for decades.

Frequently Asked Questions About Peritoneal Mesothelioma Prognosis

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What Are the Risk Factors for Peritoneal Mesothelioma?

The main risk factor for peritoneal mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos, which is the only cause of peritoneal mesothelioma. The other risk factors are all associated with the likelihood of exposure and how long ago exposure occurred (since peritoneal mesothelioma takes at least 20 years to develop). These risks include: occupation, military service, age, gender, location and use of talcum powder.

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What Are the Peritoneal Mesothelioma High-Risk Occupations?

The top peritoneal mesothelioma high risk occupations are construction, insulation, electrical work, automobile repair, plumbers, pipefitters and shipbuilders. Other occupations, such as firefighters, bakers, hairdressers and plant workers, also have a risk of asbestos exposure.

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How Common Is Peritoneal Mesothelioma?

Peritoneal mesothelioma is not a common cancer at all. It accounts for 10%-15% of all mesothelioma cases. There are only around 2,500 cases of mesothelioma in the United States each year. Peritoneal mesothelioma accounts for approximately 500 of these cases, making it one of the rarest cancers.

Sources & Author

  1. Peritoneal thickening. Radiopaedia. Retrieved from: https://radiopaedia.org/articles/peritoneal-thickening?lang=us#:~:text=Peritoneal%20thickening%20is%20a%20descriptive,peritonitis. Accessed: 03/14/2023.
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About the Writer, Camryn Keeble

Camryn Keeble is the senior content writer and editor for Mesothelioma Guide. She creates informative content to educate mesothelioma patients and their loved ones on news, treatments and more. She also works diligently to raise awareness of the dangers of asbestos exposure and the effects of mesothelioma.