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Why Smokers Shouldn't Always Assume Tobacco is Cause of Lung Cancer

Smoking is the leading cause of cancer and death from cancer. It causes cancers of the lung, esophagus, kidney, throat, larynx, mouth, bladder, liver, pancreas, stomach, cervix, colon, and rectum. It also causes acute myeloid leukemia (AML). The most common cancer caused by smoking, however, is lung cancer, accounting for around 80% of lung cancer deaths. Smoking is clearly the strongest risk factor for lung cancer, so why would a smoker ever assume that the symptoms he’s experiencing are caused by anything else? The reason is asbestos.

Smokers that have been exposed to asbestos in the past 10 to 50 years shouldn’t always assume that tobacco is the cause of their lung cancer. Smokers who have been exposed to asbestos in the past are at greater risk of developing lung cancer because asbestos dust and tobacco work together to multiply the danger. Many studies have shown that the combination of smoking and asbestos exposure poses a greater threat than smoking alone or asbestos exposure alone. It is estimated that the combination of the two toxins makes smokers 50 to 84 times more likely to develop asbestos-related lung cancer.

Symptoms of lung cancer include:

  • A persistent cough that gets worse over time
  • Blood in the sputum (fluid) coughed up from the lungs
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Fatigue or anemia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pain or tightening in the chest
  • Shortness of breath, wheezing, or hoarseness
  • Swelling of the neck or face
  • Weight loss

Note that lung cancer presents many of the same symptoms as pleural mesothelioma, which affects the tissue that surrounds the lungs. Signs and symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include:

  • Chest pain under the rib cage
  • Painful coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Unusual lumps of tissue under the skin on your chest

Though studies have been somewhat inconclusive as to whether smoking increases the risk of developing mesothelioma or not, if a smoker has been exposed to asbestos, it’s probably not a good idea to assume that lung cancer is the only explanation. If you worked with asbestos in the past, whether you smoke or not, you should see your doctor right away. It could be mesothelioma. It is also important to understand your legal rights and all of the resources available to you.

 

Sources

"Asbestos Exposure and Cancer Risk." National Cancer Institute (NCI). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), National Institutes of Health (NIH), 2017. Web. 18 Apr. 2017.

"Diseases and Conditions: Mesothelioma." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER), 1998-2017. Web. 18 Apr. 2017.

"Harms of Cigarette Smoking and Health Benefits of Quitting." National Cancer Institute (NCI). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), National Institutes of Health (NIH), 2017. Web. 18 Apr. 2017.

"Mesothelioma: Risk Factors." Cancer.Net. American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), 03 Aug. 2016. Web. 18 Apr. 2017.

Reece, Alex. "Killer in Our Midst." PressReader.com. USA Today, 21 Feb. 2017. Web. 18 Apr. 2017.

"What Causes Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer?" American Cancer Society. American Cancer Society, Inc., 2017. Web. 18 Apr. 2017.