If you smoke, you’re 50–84 times more likely to get lung cancer from asbestos exposure, according to a number of studies. Smokers’ inflammatory responses are altered as a result of the lung damage caused by smoking. A increased risk of scarring, stiffening, and destroying lung tissue after exposure to asbestos can be attributed to this imbalance.
Mesothelioma and Smoking
Asbestos exposure is the sole known cause of mesothelioma, hence smoking is not a direct link. Smoking, on the other hand, has been linked to an increased risk of mesothelioma in people who have been exposed to asbestos.
Mesothelioma is more likely to develop in smokers because their lungs have less cilia (hair-like structures that remove material from the airways). Cilia function is briefly diminished with each cigarette smoked. As the cilia in the lungs diminish over time due to smoking, the lungs are unable to remove harmful particles like asbestos fibers.
The cilia’s work is made more difficult in smokers’ lungs because of the increased mucus and lower oxygen intake. Additionally, mucus can be a breeding ground for bacteria and asbestos fibers. The damaged alveoli in the lungs exacerbate the scarring caused by these fibers. Smoking damages the alveoli in the lungs, resulting in additional scarring. Asbestos-related breathing problems might be made worse by the scarring that occurs as a result of the scarring in the lungs.
Those who work in high-risk occupations may face much greater dangers from exposure to asbestos and smoking. There are an estimated 125 million people who are exposed to asbestos on the job each year, which is the primary cause of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related disorders. The National Cancer Institute recommends that those who have been exposed to mesothelioma in the workplace not smoke or quit smoking in order to reduce their risk of developing the disease. The risk of mesothelioma is increased when employees are exposed to high levels of asbestos fibers for extended periods of time. Those who work with asbestos may be at risk of acquiring and advancing cancer more quickly if they also smoke, as the irritants and poisons from cigarettes can further irritate and scar the lung tissue.
A mesothelioma patient’s quality of life may be adversely affected if he or she continues to smoke after the cancer has formed. Pleural mesothelioma symptoms, such as shortness of breath and cough, can be exacerbated by smoking. Additionally, smoking might aggravate the negative effects of conventional treatments, as well as diminish their efficacy. Smoking can also lead to a diagnosis of a second cancer, such as non-asbestos lung cancer, mouth cancer, or esophageal cancer, for example..
There are various health benefits to quitting smoking, including reduced risk of developing mesothelioma and numerous other cancers. Improved circulation and stabilization of blood carbon monoxide levels are two possible benefits of stopping smoking for some cancer patients. The likelihood of death is reduced by 30–40 percent, according to research.
Smoking and Asbestosis
Asbestosis is a long-term lung disease that results from exposure to asbestos. Asbestos fiber inhalation damages lung tissue over time by causing scarring and inflammation. Asbestosis is thought to be more common in smokers because their lungs are already scarred and inflamed by smoking, making the disease more likely. Smoking before asbestos exposure damages the lungs, allowing more asbestos fibers to enter the lungs and hastening the onset of disease.
Asbestosis and other asbestos-related malignancies in fetuses have been linked to secondhand or environmental tobacco smoke exposure. Children who have been exposed to smoke while pregnant are more vulnerable to sickness as a result of exposure to asbestos. When exposure to ambient cigarette smoke persists into the early stages of development, the risk is even more pronounced.
For those who have been diagnosed with asbestosis, the severity of the ailment and its symptoms worsen over time. Patients with asbestosis are given inhalers and other drugs to help them improve their ability to breathe. Smoking can interfere with the positive effects of a treatment plan. Asbestosis is associated with an increased risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma in both smokers and nonsmokers, making treatment even more critical.
Link Between Smoking and the development of Asbestos-related Lung Cancer
According to research, roughly 3% of lung cancer cases are caused by exposure to asbestos. Tumors in the lung tissue can develop from asbestos exposure as well as smoking, however smoking is the most prevalent cause of lung cancer in the US.
Smokers and people with asbestosis have an increased chance of developing lung cancer as a result of asbestos exposure. A study on the prevalence of lung cancer among insulators indicated that smokers who were also exposed to asbestos on the job had a higher rate of cancer. To be more specific, researchers discovered:
- Lung cancer rates were 14.4 times higher among smokers who had been exposed in some way to asbestos.
- Nearly 37-fold greater than in nonsmokers, lung cancer risk was associated with asbestosis and continued smoking in those who had the disease.
- Asbestos exposure with smoking resulted in a 28-fold greater risk of lung cancer death than in the general population.
Smoking is linked to an increased lung cancer risk, however studies suggest that after stopping smoking, the incidence rate drops significantly. The risk of lung cancer for asbestos workers is the same as that of a nonsmoker 30 years after stopping smoking. People who quit smoking had the same lung cancer mortality rates as those who had never smoked after 10 years, according to research published in 2013. In the study, current smokers had a mortality rate of 177 deaths per 10,000, and those who stopped had a mortality rate of 90 deaths per 10,000.
Asbestos in Cigarettes
Asbestos was utilized as an ingredient in Lorillard’s Kent cigarette filters because of its recognized fire-retardant characteristics. Filters made by the company between 1952 and 1956 contained crocidolite asbestos. The crocidolite content of a Kent cigarette filter from this time period was 10 milligrams. An asbestos-containing cigarette had minute asbestos fibers in the cigarette smoke after just two puffs. Inhaling more than 100 million crocidolite fibers a year from a single pack of these Kent cigarettes is not uncommon.
In a study of workers who made the asbestos-containing cigarette filters, a high risk of asbestos-related sickness was discovered. Lung cancer claimed the lives of eight individuals, while malignant mesothelioma claimed the lives of five others, and asbestosis claimed the lives of five more. In addition, four cases of asbestosis and two cases of lung cancer have been diagnosed among the workers who are still alive.
The increased risk of asbestos-related diseases should be discussed with a physician by anyone who smoked or was exposed to the smoke of a Kent cigarette by a loved one during this time period.