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Do smokers suffer a greater risk of mesothelioma?

by | May 7, 2021 | Mesothelioma/Asbestos-Related Illness

Nearly all mesothelioma cases begin with asbestos exposure. It’s a relatively clear line of causation and one that has helped countless mesothelioma victims win compensation from the organizations that put them at risk.

However, asbestos isn’t the only thing known to cause cancer. How does smoking affect your odds of developing mesothelioma? Are smokers more likely to develop mesothelioma than other people? If so, how would that affect your ability to get the financial resources you need and deserve?

Smoking does not cause mesothelioma

Researchers long ago established the significant cancer risks presented by both smoking and asbestos exposure. That made it somewhat inevitable that researchers would explore how the two factors might work together. But the research wasn’t easy. It can take decades for asbestos exposure to lead to mesothelioma or other cancers, which meant researchers needed to wait longer to gather their data.

Nonetheless, over the years, researchers were able to compile and explore the information from multiple sources. Reviews of that data show:

  • Differences in the types of DNA changes between mesothelioma and other lung cancers clearly point to asbestos as the singular cause of nearly all mesothelioma. Tobacco does not play an observable role in mesothelioma.
  • All the different types of asbestos fibers in commercial use can contribute to lung cancer.
  • Lung carcinoma is a multifactorial cancer that can have many causes, even at the same time. While smoking is the most common factor in lung carcinoma, asbestos exposure can also play a role.
  • The risk of developing lung carcinoma increases with both smoking and asbestos exposure. For smokers who also suffered asbestos exposure, they suffer a risk greater than simply adding the other risks together but that is less than a multiplied risk.

The result is that mesothelioma victims should not worry that defendants will argue their smoking contributed to their mesothelioma. Still, if you know your former employer or someone else exposed you to asbestos, you have more reason than others to avoid smoking or quit immediately. You might also be able to argue that asbestos caused your lung carcinoma, but you’ll have a harder time making that argument, especially if you ever smoked.

What factors increase the risk of mesothelioma?

Smoking doesn’t increase the risk of mesothelioma, but it does increase the risk of other asbestos-related cancers. What else can increase the risk of mesothelioma? The National Cancer Institute identifies several factors, including:

  • Amount of asbestos
  • Duration of the exposure
  • Type of asbestos fibers
  • Source of the exposure
  • Genetic risk factors, such as a germline BAP1 mutation

In other words, it’s asbestos, asbestos, asbestos and a genetic susceptibility to asbestos. For mesothelioma victims and their families, the line of causation remains relatively clear. It’s mostly a matter of figuring out who exposed them to asbestos, how much and for how long.

Mesothelioma treatment can be expensive

Ultimately, victims and their families want to know what they can do to improve their outcomes. This means both getting the right medical treatment and coping with the financial burdens the disease may bring. The good news is that there are many different resources available. It is often possible to file a lawsuit, though not always necessary.

Meanwhile, mesothelioma victims shouldn’t worry that a history of smoking will disqualify them for benefits. Smoking is no good for anyone, and it’s even worse for mesothelioma victims. However, there is no good evidence that tobacco use contributes to mesothelioma.

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