Smoking and Asbestos Lung Cancer

Smoking and Asbestos Lung Cancer

It’s hard to believe that lung cancer was once a rare disease that doctors were unfamiliar with and considered a once-in-a-lifetime find. It wasn’t medically recognized until the 18th century and as of 1900, only 140 lung cancer cases were ever documented. As smoking became an increasingly popular habit at the turn of the 20th century, lung cancer cases began to increase by the thousands. Today, cigarettes cause approximately 1.5 million deaths per year from lung cancer – a number that is expected to rise to 2 million  within the next 10 years.

During the 1930s and 1940s, smoking became a normal and also popular habit for both men and women in the United States. When initial reports indicated a connection between cigarette smoking and lung cancer, ad campaigns began to feature physicians and medical professionals who smoked; easing the public into thinking that certain brands or types of cigarettes smoked were safe.

At the same time, asbestos use in the United States was increasing at an alarming rate as its durability, affordability, and fire-resistant qualities made it a “jack-of-all-trades” material used in many lines of work. Railroad, factory, and construction workers, as well as miners and shipyard workers were all exposed to asbestos through their line of work; from asbestos-products they produced, to equipment used that contained the natural mineral.

The inhalation of asbestos fibers can also cause lung cancer, as the fibers become embedded in the soft tissue of the lungs. The risk of lung cancer in relation to asbestos exposure does vary due to length of exposure, the industry worked, and the type of asbestos used.  Alone, both cigarette smoking and asbestos exposure can cause lung cancer – for a person who has been exposed to asbestos and smoked the risk is tremendously magnified.

Smokers who were exposed to asbestos and also have lung cancer usually attribute their lung cancer to tobacco use; however, it’s important to be aware that smoking and asbestos have a synergistic effect on one another.  Smokers with asbestos exposure have more than a 50 fold increase in their chance of being diagnosed with lung cancer compared to people who have not smoked and have not been exposed to asbestos.

Can a lung cancer victim who smoked still pursue an asbestos lawsuit?
Absolutely. Smoking plus asbestos exposure is a lethal combination and if you smoke and have been exposed to asbestos, your risk of developing lung cancer is increased five to nine times over smoking alone. For that reason, asbestos is a substantial contributing factor for lung cancer in smokers. A history of smoking does not preclude you from an asbestos-related lawsuit if you have been diagnosed with lung cancer. You are still entitled to compensation for your asbestos-related injuries.

The attorneys at Goldberg, Persky & White, P.C., have tried many cases for former smokers who were diagnosed with lung cancer. For decades, companies violated workplace conditions and denied their laborers a safe and healthy working environment.  At GPW, we fight to protect your rights and urge you to contact us as soon as you are diagnosed – even if you smoked.

Robert N. Proctor, “The history of the discovery of the cigarette–lung cancer link: evidentiary traditions, corporate denial, global tol,” British Medical Journal  (January 2013). [Link]

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