Malignant mesothelioma (MM) is mainly caused by air-born asbestos but genetic susceptibility is also suspected to be a risk factor. Recent studies suggest an increasing number of candidate genes that may predispose to MM besides the well-characterized BRCA1-associated protein-1 gene. The aim of this review is to summarize the most important studies on germline mutations for MM. A total of 860 publications were retrieved from Scopus, PubMed and Web of Science, of which 81 met the inclusion criteria and were consider for this review. More than 50% of the genes that are reported to predispose to MM are involved in DNA repair mechanisms, and the majority of them have a role in the homologous recombination pathway. Genetic alterations in tumor suppressor genes involved in chromatin, transcription and hypoxia regulation have also been described. Furthermore, we identified several single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that may promote MM tumorigenesis as a result of an asbestos-gene interaction, including SNPs in DNA repair, carcinogen detoxification and other genes previously associated with other malignancies. The identification of inherited mutations for MM and an understanding of the underlying pathways may allow early detection and prevention of malignancies in high-risk individuals and pave the way for targeted therapies.