Mesothelioma and Smoking

After asbestos exposure, smokers increase their risk of cancer by 90%. In fact, smokers are at greater risk for developing malignant mesothelioma.

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Mesothelioma and the Link to Smoking

Lung cancer and smoking go hand in hand. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer related deaths in the United States, and the vast majority of these cases are due to smoking. Mesothelioma is a particular type of lung cancer. While it is most commonly related to asbestos exposure in those who work in certain settings, those who smoke are doubly at risk. While those who have been exposed to high asbestos levels cannot change what’s already happened, smoking increases these individuals’ risks of developing cancer even more. In fact, according to, those who smoke after asbestos exposure increase their risk of cancer by up to 90%. Even worse, these individuals are at an increased risk of developing malignant mesothelioma.

What is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a form of lung cancer that often develops due to asbestos exposure. It is generally caused by fibers from the asbestos lodging in the lungs and causing damage over time. In some individuals, these fibers are removed from the lungs over time before they can cause damage leading to cancer. In smokers who have weaker lungs those of non-smokers, these fibers often remain in place. This weakened lung state, combined with the fibers, make cancer all the more likely in those who have been exposed to asbestos.

How Does Smoking Impact Mesothelioma?

According to the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, those who smoke are far more likely to have the most aggressive forms of mesothelioma. These forms often spread to other areas of the body, such as the lungs or stomach. Cancers which have spread are much harder to treat. Since lung cancer is already one of the most deadly forms of cancer, those with this more aggressive type have a very poor prognosis. For these reasons, those who have been exposed to asbestos, as well as those who smoke, should see a doctor if any symptoms of lung cancer are present. These can include shortness of breath, chest pain, frequent lung infections, failure to heal from lung infections, excessive mucus production, and a persistent cough. Many of these symptoms are often mistaken for other, less serious conditions. In those who are at high risk for lung cancer, however, they should always be taken seriously.

How can Mesothelioma be Prevented?

Most cases of mesothelioma can be linked to exposure to asbestos, a substance found in many old building materials and other materials. Those who work in old buildings, such as doing remodeling work, may be at an increased risk of exposure. Now that the dangers of asbestos are realized, protective gear can be used to prevent inhalation of the material. Many who have been exposed have already suffered the damages, however. Cancer for these individuals may come down to other behaviors which can increase or decrease their risk level. For instance, those who were exposed to asbestos in the past should refrain from smoking, inhaling pollutants like smog or chemicals, and should see a doctor if any symptoms of lung cancer are present.

How can Risks Of Mesothelioma  be Reduced?

Those who are forced to work around asbestos should always use protective gear. This may include masks and respirators to prevent inhalation of the asbestos fibers. Those who fear they may have asbestos in their homes should hire a professional to remove it safely. Anyone who has already been exposed to asbestos should reduce their risk in other areas. This means refraining from smoking, as well as being around secondhand or third-hand smoke. If quitting is an issue, there are numerous stop smoking aids available to help. Nicotine replacement therapies are widely used, such as patches, gums, lozenges, inhalers.

More Information About Mesothelioma and Smoking

For more motivation to quit smoking once and for all, visit The Real Cost of Smoking. Read more about the effects cigarette smoke has on the human body at The Effects of Smoking.

Learn more about smoking:

Nicotine Dependence and Freedom • How to Inspire a Smoker to Quit • Secondhand Smoke: Think TwiceQuitting Smoking Cold Turkey

Published: March 3, 2015 Updated: May 10, 2019



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