Smoking Plus Asbestos Exposure – A Deadly Combination

In 2004, the American Thoracic Society called asbestos “the largest cause of occupational cancer in the United States and a significant cause of disease and disability from nonmalignant disease.” Asbestos is a known carcinogen. It has been found to be the cause of many different cancers in those who were exposed to the popular building material including mesothelioma, lung cancer, colon and colorectal cancer, and throat cancer.

One of the first cancers to be linked to asbestos was lung cancer, as it kills as many as 10,000 Americans every year. An important contributing factor to many lung cancer cases is if the person was a smoker. Smoking is the number one cause of lung cancer in the United States, but if you smoke and have been exposed to asbestos, your risk of developing lung cancer increases dramatically. Smoking plus asbestos exposure increases your risk of developing lung cancer five or more times than smoking alone, with the risk increasing with heavier smoking. Many believe that because they were smokers, they are not entitled to compensation for their illness, but since asbestos exposure has been determined to be a major contributing factor in the development of lung cancer in smokers, smoking does not exempt any one suffering from an asbestos-related disease.

It is true that while some have been exposed to asbestos for many years, they have not and will not develop any sort of lung disease or cancer. However, there are many who are not so fortunate. If you have been exposed to asbestos, it is important that you advise your physician of this and receive regular check-ups to ensure you are not developing and asbestos-related condition. The latency period between time of initial exposure and illness can be anywhere from 10 years to 40 years or more and in most cases, the disease has progressed significantly by the time it is diagnosed.

Despite the increased risks, quitting smoking is still important among asbestos workers.  Just as with their non-asbestos-exposed counterparts, the risk of developing lung cancer drops dramatically after quitting. Some studies have suggested the risk of developing illness drops as much as 50% within five years of kicking the habit.

The Great American Smokeout
Every year on the third Thursday in November, the American Cancer Society sponsors a nationwide intervention event to help Americans quit smoking for good. Called the Great American Smokeout ,the event challenges smokers to go one day without a cigarette, showing that if you can go one day without having one, then perhaps you can go two days, or even three. The event is meant to inspire smokers to quit, or make a plan to quit. This November marked the 40th anniversary of the event, which was first held in San Francisco in 1977. The benefits of quitting smoking begin just 20 minutes after your last cigarette, with blood pressure and heart rate levels returning to normal. Within a couple months after quitting, circulation and lung function improves, and by one year after quitting, heart attack risk drops significantly.

 

Source:
American Cancer Society

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Last update: March 06, 2014. 08:41:31 pm.