J Korean Med Assoc.  2009 May;52(5):449-455. 10.5124/jkma.2009.52.5.449.

Epidemiologic Characteristics of Malignant Mesothelioma in Korea

  • 1Department of Preventive Medicine, The Catholic University of Korea College of Medicine, Korea. cyclor@catholic.ac.kr
  • 2Department of Occupational Medicine, Dongguk University College of Medicine, Korea. ysahn@dongguk.ac.kr
  • 3Department of Pathology, Yonsei University Wonju College of Medicine, Korea. soonheej@yonsei.ac.kr


Malignant mesothelioma is an aggressive tumor occurring in mesothelial cells of the pleura and peritoneum. This cancer is attributable to asbestos in 80~90% of the patients. Asbestos has been widely used in Korea since the 1970s, therefore, a large number of Korean workers, especially who engaged in the industries of asbestos textiles, shipbuilding, or construction, have been exposed to asbestos occupationally. Korea has several kinds of statistics showing mesothelioma mortality and morbidity, which include cancer registry data, mortality data, and surveillance data. According to the annual report of the Korea Central Cancer Registry (KCCR), fatal malignant mesothelioma occurred in around 40~50 cases a year during the recent 10 years (1993~2002). According to the surveillance data, about 34 cases have been reported annually since 2001. It has also been revealed that about 60% of malignant mesothelioma patients have experiences to be exposed to asbestos in the past. The number of mesothelioma patients in Korea is smaller than that of some developed countries such as United Kingdom, Germany, and Japan. However, mesothelioma has increased greatly in recent years in Korea, and it is expected to increase continuously considering asbestos consumption, as it happened in other countries which used large amounts of asbestos. Therefore, active policies to prevent asbestos-related malignant mesothelioma and to compensate patients suffering from it have to be made in Korea.


Malignant mesothelioma; Asbestos; Surveillance; Epidemiology
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