The clinical details are presented of 29 fatal cases of pleural mesothelioma in the majority of which there was a history of exposure to asbestos during dockyard work in Portsmouth. Chest pain, breathlessness and weight loss dominated the clinical picture. Analgesia and repeated pleural aspirations provided temporary relief but symptoms invariably progressed. The mean survival time was 39 weeks. Only one patient survived longer than 2 years from hospital presentation. At autopsy, extensive local spread was usual but a high proportion of patients also had metastases at distant sites.