Smoker vs. non-smoker with asbestos exposure

By Treven Pyles

Posted on May 04th, 2020

While smoking is the main cause of lung cancer, the disease can also be the consequence of asbestos exposure. However, when both asbestos exposure and smoking are present, the risk of developing lung cancer increases considerably.

Smoking, a habit which over 34 million people in the United States have, is the primary cause of lung cancer, accounting for up to 90% of cases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14% of Americans use tobacco products. Between 10% and 15% of smokers will develop lung cancer at one point during their lifetime. However, asbestos exposure can also lead to the onset of lung cancer. Occupational asbestos exposure was found to elevate the risk of lung cancer by 5 times. When the two risk factors co-occur in a person, their chances of receiving a lung cancer diagnosis increase by 50 to 84 times. In other words, individuals with a history of asbestos exposure who are also smokers are significantly more susceptible to lung cancer than non-smokers.

Diagnosing lung cancer in smokers with a history of asbestos exposure

Since smoking is a quite prevalent habit, numerous people who were exposed to asbestos in occupational or military settings are also smokers. Their chances of developing lung cancer are exponentially higher, as smoking takes a great toll on the health of their lungs, which are already damaged by the asbestos fibers they inhaled. It is worthy of note that it takes 20 to 50 years for a pulmonary disease to ensue following asbestos exposure, as they have a long latency period, during which the asbestos fibers gradually cause inflammation and tissue scarring to the lungs.

When it comes to pinpointing the cause of lung cancer in smokers with a history of asbestos exposure, medical professionals may encounter difficulties, since both tobacco smoking and asbestos exposure are responsible for the disease. A certain way of determining whether asbestos exposure or smoking is the cause of lung cancer is paying attention to the time during which the disease developed, as when it is the result of the former, it will take several decades to occur.

Asbestos fibers in the lungs of smokers vs. non-smokers

When asbestos fibers are present in the lungs of a person, they will look differently in smokers than in non-smokers. Because tobacco contains numerous toxic ingredients which reach the lungs every time one smokes a cigarette, they build up over time, which causes the lungs to lose their normal pink color and appear grey or even black. However, when there are asbestos fibers in the lungs of a smoker, they are still visible on a chest X-ray, although the radiologist or physician may encounter some difficulty in pinpointing the exact areas where they are, however our trained medical staff can clearly differentiate them in an x-ray. In the case of a non-smoker, the asbestos fibers are clearly visible on a chest X-ray, as their lungs have not been affected by tobacco smoke, so B-readers will have a less challenging task in determining where exactly the asbestos fibers are located in the lungs.

Smokers are eligible for compensation

However, if asbestos fibers are found in the lungs, asbestos exposure will be considered the main cause of lung cancer, as asbestos is a known human carcinogen.

This will help the individual and family members become eligible for trust fund claim compensation, if they are a veteran, we also help them with an approved VA claim as well. If you have lung cancer and a history of asbestos exposure but were told by medical professionals that your disease is the result of smoking, please seek a second opinion, if asbestos fibers are found in your lungs you will qualify for filing a claim to recover the financial compensation you deserve. Our medical specialists have vast experience in diagnosing diseases which stem from asbestos exposure, so we strongly encourage you to come to our law firm for a no-cost asbestos screening if we determine you are eligible.

When you have a diagnosis of lung cancer and you know you previously worked in an industrial setting or the military, you can easily file a claim to obtain compensation through the asbestos trust funds, our attorneys and staff have been pursuing asbestos exposure cases for the last 30 years. We will help you with quality legal assistance and carefully take care of every aspect entailed by the claim process. Nevertheless, your involvement in the legal process will be minimal, as you will only have to give us past work history information and access to medical records, employment or military records. Depending on the difficulty of your case, it may take between three months and one year to receive compensation, however we expedite the process for all cancer patients, family members receiving the money after our client passing away.

How smoking worsens lung cancer which is the result of asbestos exposure

Because asbestos is a known human carcinogen, according to multiple national and international health organizations, a disease is bound to occur in 20% of people who have a history of exposure. When another carcinogen is involved, namely tobacco smoke, which contains up to 7,000 toxic substances, the chances of developing lung cancer increase considerably. Furthermore, smoking worsens lung cancer when the disease is already present, by:

  • impairing the self-cleaning ability of your lungs: when you smoke, the tiny structures which line your airways, medically known as the cilia, are severely damaged, which results in your lungs not being able to properly eliminate pollutants, including asbestos fibers
  • increasing inflammation and tissue scarring: asbestos fibers will cause inflammation and tissue scarring to your lungs over time, but smoking will increase these symptoms to a great extent, which will worsen your lung cancer
  • reducing the ability of the lungs to absorb oxygen: by damaging the alveoli, which are the air sacs of your lungs, smoking will result in a significantly lower amount of oxygen within your body, which will also make breathing troublesome

Smoking and mesothelioma

The only known cause of mesothelioma is asbestos exposure. Unlike lung cancer, which occurs inside the lungs, mesothelioma affects the outer lining of the lungs. While smoking was not found to impact the development of mesothelioma, it can worsen the symptoms to a tremendous extent by making breathing difficult and by causing severe chest pain. For this reason, if you struggle with mesothelioma, it is highly recommended to quit smoking.