Mesothelioma is cancer of the mesothelial cells, which are the cells that make up the membrane (lining) that covers the outer surface of most of our body organs.
For example, mesothelioma can develop in the lining covering the lungs.
About 2,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year.
What is the cause?
Asbestos is the most common cause of mesothelioma. Most people diagnosed with mesothelioma will have been exposed to this mineral at some point in their life.
Mesothelioma can develop many years (usually 40-60 years) after the initial exposure to asbestos.
The outlook for mesothelioma is poor, because it is usually diagnosed when it is at an advanced stage. Most people diagnosed with mesothelioma will die within three years of being diagnosed. Every year in the UK there are around 1,800 deaths from the condition.
The number of deaths from mesothelioma is expected to rise in the years ahead due to the long gap between exposure to asbestos and the onset of the cancer. Experts believe that by 2050, 90,000 people in the UK will have died as a result of mesothelioma.
Want to know more?
Health A-Z: asbestosis
Health A-Z: cancer
Cancer Research UK: mesothelioma