It is likely that you have heard about the dangers of exposure to asbestos, and the connection between asbestos and mesothelioma. However, if you are unfamiliar with this rare form of cancer, then you may still have questions about what it is, and who is at risk of developing this disease. In particular, if you are a smoker, you may be wondering if you are at risk of developing mesothelioma. To help you get a better understanding of mesothelioma, here is a quick overview of what it is, who is at risk of developing it, and its connection to smoking.
What is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer that is extremely aggressive, spreads quickly, and is deadly for most patients. It is a cancer that generally attacks the tissue that lines the lungs called pleura. While it is impossible to know for certain the exact cause of each case of mesothelioma, certain risk factors such as age, gender, having worked in industries in which asbestos was used, and certain genetic factors can increase one’s risk of developing mesothelioma. In particular, prolonged exposure to great amounts of asbestos has been shown to be the primary risk factor for this cancer.
Is There a Connection Between Mesothelioma and Smoking?
Those who smoke may be concerned if smoking puts them at risk of developing mesothelioma. While smoking itself has not been proven to cause mesothelioma, smokers who are exposed to asbestos have been shown to be at a much higher risk of developing this cancer. While roughly ten percent of people exposed to asbestos develop mesothelioma, smoking can increase one’s risk of developing mesothelioma by as much as 90%, here’s why:
- It Decreases Overall Health: Smoking decreases one’s overall health, and can cause, or make one susceptible to, a variety of diseases. Good health can go a long way in helping to prevent diseases, and in improving the prognosis for people with mesothelioma. Thusly, the decreased health smoking can cause can increase the risk of mesothelioma, and can also make this disease more aggressive.
- It Increases Mucus Production: Cigarette smoke irritates air passages, which can cause them to produce more mucus. This can block the passage of air, and can reduce the lungs’ ability to cleanse themselves of certain contaminants, making it more likely that asbestos fibers will remain trapped in the lungs.
- Smoking Weakens Lung Tissue: Not only does smoking make it harder for the lungs to clean themselves, but also, smoking can weaken the tissue lining the lungs, making it easier for asbestos fibers to become lodged in the lining of the lungs in the first place. Thusly, smoking can then greatly increase one’s risk of developing mesothelioma as it makes it easier for asbestos fibers to become trapped in the lungs, and by making it harder for the lungs to remove these contaminants.
Can Quitting Smoking Help One’s Prognosis?
For people who have been exposed to asbestos, quitting smoking can go a long way in helping to prevent mesothelioma. However, if you are a smoker who has already been diagnosed with this disease, you may be wondering if quitting now can help. As was previously discussed, smoking can hurt one’s health, which can negatively affect the disease’s prognosis. Quitting now, even after years of smoking, could give you more time by helping improve the success of treatments, as treatments are more effective on healthy bodies. Additionally, smoking can heighten, and exacerbate, the symptoms of mesothelioma, which can be a painful disease. Quitting smoking now can then help to give you a better quality of life.
While the primary cause of mesothelioma tends to be asbestos exposure, people who have been exposed to asbestos who are also smokers are at a much higher risk of developing mesothelioma.
While we work on quitting smoking and improving our lifestyle we can work on improving our diet. For ideas and useful tips download the Healthy Eating & Lifestyle Guide: