Smoking increases mesothelioma risk after asbestos exposure

On Behalf of | Nov 24, 2021 | mesothelioma

It’s well established that long-term exposure to asbestos can cause lung cancer and related diseases like mesothelioma. Of course, smoking tobacco can also cause lung cancer and other respiratory conditions. For some years now, researchers have looked at the relationship between asbestos exposure and the use of tobacco products to a person’s chances of developing mesothelioma. 

Mesothelioma cannot occur without asbestos exposure. However, the chances of a person who’s had exposure to the toxic substance developing the condition have been found to rise by 50% to 80% when they also had a history of smoking.

What factors cause this “synergism?”

Researchers have noted some key factors that cause this “synergism between asbestos exposure and tobacco smoke,” as the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) put it in a publication less than two years ago. For example, smoking tobacco weakens the tissue in the lungs, which makes it easier for asbestos fibers to stick there. Further, the increase in mucus that smokers experience makes it more difficult for the body to naturally rid the lungs of irritants like these fibers.

The study published by the NCBI, which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), concluded, “Any asbestos exposure, even in a heavy smoker, contributes to causation. Based on this information, we propose criteria for the attribution of lung cancer to asbestos in smokers and non-smokers.”

Although smoking alone can’t cause mesothelioma, a person who smokes is at greater risk for developing it if they’re also exposed to asbestos. That shouldn’t prevent you from seeking compensation and justice if you or a loved one was exposed to asbestos. With experienced legal guidance, you can find out if you qualify for compensation to help with medical bills and other expenses.