Current research does not show that smoking causes mesothelioma, but asbestos exposure can cause this cancer. Smoking may affect how the body responds to asbestos, increasing a person’s risk of asbestos illnesses. For example, smoking may increase the retention of asbestos fibers in lung tissue.

01. Smoking and Mesothelioma

Does Smoking Cause Mesothelioma?

There is no direct link between smoking and mesothelioma. But smoke inhalation may alter the body’s response to asbestos fibers. In theory, this might affect a person’s risk of developing mesothelioma, since it is caused by asbestos exposure.

How Does Smoking Affect Asbestos-Related Risks?

Smoking may affect some of the processes tied to the development of asbestos-related diseases. These processes include:

  • Airway inflammation: Smoking increases inflammation in the airways. Inflammation contributes to mesothelioma development.
  • Immune response to asbestos: Smoke may change the body’s natural immune response to asbestos fibers. These changes may make immune cells less capable of clearing the fibers.
  • Management of debris in the lungs: Tobacco smoke decreases the lungs’ ability to remove harmful particles like asbestos. In theory, this could allow smokers to retain more asbestos fibers than non-smokers, increasing their mesothelioma risk.

Tobacco smoke may also impact people at various points in their life. For example, childhood smoke exposure may change how the body reacts to asbestos. This change might make it easier for asbestos to cause cancer. Smoking can also cause problems for people undergoing cancer treatment.

How Does Smoking Affect Mesothelioma Treatment?

Smoking may negatively impact mesothelioma treatment and recovery.

According to experts, smokers experience more chemotherapy side effects than non-smokers. Those side effects persist for a longer period of time.

Smoking also makes it harder for the body to recover from cancer treatments. It affects blood circulation, which can make it difficult for wounds to heal. Tobacco smoke can also increase the risk of cancer returning after treatment.

For all these reasons, doctors say patients should consider quitting smoking.

Asbestos and Smoking Kent Cigarettes

Some individuals may have experienced exposure to asbestos while smoking. For years, one cigarette brand used asbestos in its cigarette filters. Although manufacturing stopped in 1956, billions of these Kent Micronite cigarettes were sold. People who smoked these cigarettes may have inhaled multiple carcinogens at once, including asbestos.

People who smoked these asbestos cigarettes could still be at risk of developing mesothelioma. This rare cancer has a long latency period and may take decades to arise. Anyone who smoked Kent Micronite cigarettes should discuss it with a doctor. The doctor can help monitor for symptoms of mesothelioma and other asbestos diseases.

02. Smoking and Other Diseases

Smoking and Asbestos-Related Lung Cancer

Deaths from lung cancer make up approximately 20% of all cancer deaths in the world. While the leading cause is smoking, asbestos exposure may also cause lung cancer.

Smoking alone causes 85% – 90% of lung cancer cases. Experts estimate that asbestos causes about 4% of lung cancers in the United States.

Individuals who smoke and have been exposed to asbestos may have an elevated risk of developing various diseases, like asbestos lung cancer. Research indicates that risk may lessen if smokers quit.

Study Findings: Smoking and the Risk of Lung Cancer From Asbestos Exposure

  • Asbestos-exposed individuals who smoke: There is an increased risk of lung cancer. Compared to never-smokers, this risk lasts for up to 20 years after they stop smoking.
  • Asbestos-exposed individuals who stopped smoking less than seven years ago: The risk of lung cancer is 22 times higher than never-smokers.

A 2013 study examined the effects of asbestos and smoking on lung cancer deaths. It compared people who worked with asbestos, people who smoked and people who did both. Researchers found the following:

  • Quitting smoking: Ten years after stopping smoking, former smokers had half the risk of dying of lung cancer. Thirty years after quitting, their risk was equal to that of never-smokers.
  • Smoking and asbestos: People who smoked and worked with asbestos had the highest risk of dying from lung cancer.

These results highlight the dangers of asbestos and smoking. They also demonstrate the benefits of quitting smoking. Asbestos-exposed individuals who smoke may face greater risks of asbestos-related diseases than non-smokers. Still, individuals may lower their risk of developing these conditions by quitting smoking.

03. Smoking and Lung Scarring

Smoking and Asbestosis

Asbestosis is a chronic lung disease that develops only after asbestos exposure. It consists of lung scarring that can make breathing difficult. In some cases, it may take decades for symptoms to present.

Asbestosis Overview

  • Condition: Incurable lung scarring caused by asbestos exposure
  • Prognosis: Generally favorable as many patients have mild to no symptoms
  • Symptoms: Chest pain, crackling breath sounds, persistent cough, shortness of breath
  • Treatment: Breathing treatments like asthma drugs, oxygen and rehabilitation exercises

Long-term asbestos exposure causes asbestosis. Once inhaled, asbestos fibers can cause inflammation and lung scarring.

Smoking can also cause lung inflammation. This may help explain why smoking increases a person’s risk of asbestosis. Smoking may also cause the lungs to retain more asbestos fibers, leading to quicker disease progression.

According to experts, the best way to prevent asbestosis is to reduce asbestos exposure.

04. Smoking and Asbestos

Smoking and Asbestos Exposure Risk

Asbestos is naturally fire-resistant. In the past, this quality motivated cigarette makers to add crocidolite asbestos to their filters. One brand, Kent Micronite, manufactured cigarettes with asbestos filters from 1952 to 1956. This put Kent cigarette consumers at risk of asbestos exposure. Workers at cigarette filter manufacturing plants also faced asbestos exposure risks.

Kent Micronite is the only cigarette brand known to have contained asbestos. In these cigarettes, there was no barrier between asbestos fibers and users mouths. The lack of a barrier may have increased the amount of asbestos inhalation.

One study investigated Kent filters for asbestos exposure potential.

Study Findings: Kent Micronite Cigarettes and Asbestos Exposure Risk

  • Kent Micronite cigarette filters: Each filter contained about 10 mg of asbestos.
  • Individuals who smoked one pack per day: These consumers would inhale more than 131 million asbestos particles in one year.
  • Potential ongoing impact of Kent Micronite cigarette filters: Several hundreds of thousands of people may have been exposed to asbestos through these filters.

The study estimated that several hundreds of thousands of people may have smoked these cigarettes. These consumers may still be at risk of developing asbestos-related diseases. Victims continue working with asbestos law firms to hold the manufacturer responsible for related illnesses.

05. General Smoking Health Effects

How Smoking Affects Health

Smoking can cause or contribute to many health issues. Known health impacts of smoking are:

  • Difficulty with recovery from treatments, such as surgery
  • Higher risk of cancer recurrence
  • Increased potential for infection
  • Narrowed airways
  • Worsened side effects from chemotherapy

Smoking decreases the number of cilia in the lungs. Cilia are hair-like structures that move debris out of the airways. Each cigarette smoked impairs the cilia’s functionality. Long-term smoking continues to decrease the function of cilia in the lungs. Lungs with impaired cilia may be less effective at cleaning out asbestos fibers.

Smoking also elevates mucus levels and decreases oxygen intake. The mucus may increase infection risk and trap asbestos fibers. These fibers can cause scarring that also hinders oxygen intake. These effects may make any breathing difficulty worse.

The effects of smoking may complicate cancer treatment and recovery. They may also increase the chances of cancer recurrence. Doctors recommend cancer patients stop smoking, even if their disease is not smoking-related.