Why Colorectal Cancer Survivors Shouldn't Smoke

Colorectal cancer survivors who smoked tobacco had worse health outcomes

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

(RxWiki News) Patients who have survived colorectal cancer have been through a lot. And they may go through more if they keep lighting up.

A new study from the American Cancer Society found that people with colorectal cancer who were also smokers were more likely to die from their cancer than former smokers and those who had never smoked.

Smoking has also been found to increase the risk of getting colorectal cancer in the first place, according to the research team. These researchers didn’t know exactly why smoking had these effects.

“This study adds to the existing evidence that cigarette smoking is associated with higher all-cause and colorectal cancer–specific mortality among persons with nonmetastatic colorectal cancer,” wrote the authors of this study, led by Peter T. Campbell, PhD, of the Epidemiology Research Program at the American Cancer Society National Home Office in Atlanta.

Dr. Campbell and colleagues used data from a large study called the Cancer Prevention Study II (CPSII).

From this study, which began in 1992, the researchers identified more than 2,500 people who had been diagnosed with colorectal cancer between 1992 and 2009. Colorectal cancer, as the name implies, is a cancer in the part of the large intestine called the colon.

Every two years, patients reported whether and how much they smoked and whether they had quit.

Dr. Campbell and team found that former and current smokers were more likely than those who had never smoked to be male, less educated and consume alcohol. Current smokers were more likely to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer at a younger age than former smokers and nonsmokers.

People who had smoked prior to their cancer diagnosis and continued to smoke afterward were more likely to die within the study period.

Dr. Campbell and team found that smoking may double the likelihood that colorectal cancer patients will not survive — compared to nonsmokers.

Patients can take simple steps to improve their health and reduce their risk of cancer. Stop smoking or never start, Dr. Campbell and team suggested. Doctors, medications, help lines and Web materials can help patients who are struggling to quit.

This study was published online Feb. 2 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The American Cancer Society funded this research. Conflict of interest disclosures were not available at the time of publication.

Review Date: 
February 1, 2015
Last Updated:
February 5, 2015