Research shows women with mesothelioma experience nearly three-fold better survival rate compared to men. After analyzing mesothelioma cases reported in the National Cancer Institute’s SEER database from 1988 to 2013, researchers found the overall five-year survival rate for men was 7 percent, compared with 15 percent for women.
Most asbestos exposure occurs in the workplace, particularly in industrial jobs traditionally held by men. That helps explain why men account for the majority of all mesothelioma cases.
When asbestos use was far more pervasive decades ago, the few women who did develop a related illness were usually exposed because they lived near mines or factories — especially those that processed the mineral. Women also found themselves exposed by spouses, family members or friends who worked around asbestos and brought home the tiny fibers on their clothes.
From 1999 to 2015, 80 percent of Americans who died from mesothelioma were older than 65, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Although numerous factors contribute to patient survival, women with mesothelioma appear to survive longer than men regardless of age, cancer stage, race or type of treatment. For every age group studied in the SEER program, women fared significantly better than men.
There is currently no conclusive answer as to why, but some researchers believe the improved survival could be explained by hormonal differences between genders.
Women are also more likely to be diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma, which carries a better prognosis compared to the more common pleural type.