It's Not Too Late to Quit Smoking After Cancer Diagnosis

Cancer patients who quit smoking after diagnosis added years to their lifespan

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) It's never too late to quit smoking, even after a cancer diagnosis, according to recent research.

A recent study investigated rates of survival among cancer patients who had quit smoking after their diagnosis and those who continued to smoke.

The researchers found that patients who had kicked the habit survived for twice as long as smokers after their diagnoses.

These researchers suggested that cancer patients should be encouraged to enroll in a smoking cessation program.

"Ask your doctor for help quitting smoking!"

Li Tao, of the Cancer Prevention Institute of California, led this study on smoking after a cancer diagnosis.

Smoking has been identified as one of the leading causes of cancer. However, according to the authors of this study, there hasn't been much research on the effects of smoking after a cancer diagnosis.

This study attempted to investigate the different outcomes in cancer patients who quit smoking and those who continued to use tobacco.

The researchers examined data on 1,632 cancer patients involved in the Shanghai Cohort Study. Each participant had been followed for 25 years by 2010.

The study used information on each patient's smoking status from the baseline interview and the yearly in-person interviews.

The researchers followed up with the patients for an average of 5.3 years after the cancer diagnosis. The participants had an average survival time of 5.4 years after they were diagnosed.

A total of 545 patients had quit smoking before diagnosis, and 747 patients had been smoking when they were diagnosed with cancer.

Among the 747 patients who were smoking when they were diagnosed, 214 (28.6 percent) quit smoking, while 197 (26.4 percent) continued to smoke persistently.

The other 336 patients smoked intermittently after they had been diagnosed.

Cancer patients who continued to smoke lived an average of 2.1 years after diagnosis, but those who quit lived 4.4 years — more than twice as long.

Participants who continued to smoke after a cancer diagnosis had a 76 percent increased risk of death compared to those who quit smoking for good after their diagnosis.

Participants with bladder, lung or colorectal cancer were particularly affected by continued smoking habits; these patients who smoked after diagnosis experienced a twofold increased risk of death.

The researchers concluded that cancer patients who smoked after their diagnosis generally had a poorer prognosis than those who quit smoking.

They suggested that smokers may experience more negative consequences of treatment, like delayed wound healing, suppression of the immune system and infection.

The authors of this study recommended that smokers who have been diagnosed with cancer should be encouraged to quit smoking and recommended to smoking cessation programs.

This research was published in the December edition of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

This study was funded by United States Public Health Service grants. The authors did not disclose any conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
December 9, 2013
Last Updated:
December 31, 2013