Many Cancer Survivors Still Smoked

Tobacco use continued after cancer primarily in younger patients with lower income and education

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Dominique Brooks, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Smoking cigarettes is a proven cause of cancer and other medical conditions. But some people may continue to use tobacco even after they have had cancer.

A new study showed that, in some cases, patients continued smoking even after being treated for cancer.

That choice may decrease the effectiveness of cancer treatment, increase the odds of the cancer returning and reduce overall survival time, the study authors reported.

"Stop smoking as part of a healthy lifestyle."

"Smoking can certainly decrease the immune response ability to effectively fight cancer," said Dr. Jane Sadler, a family medicine physician at Baylor Medical Center at Garland.

"There are several options to help patients stop smoking. These include prescription medications such as bupropion or Chantix," said Dr. Sadler, who was not involved in this study. "Nicotine patches have been shown to be helpful as well. In some patients, E-Cigarettes have allowed a smoother transition to nicotine cessation."

This study was written by J. Lee Westmaas, PhD, director of tobacco control research at the American Cancer Society's Behavioral Research Center in Atlanta, and colleagues.

The researchers looked at data from several studies covering 10 types of cancer in 2,938 patients.

Of that group, 60 percent were female, the average age was 65.5 and 91.9 percent were Caucasian.

At an average of nine years after cancer diagnosis, 9.3 percent of the cancer survivors — nearly 1 in 10 — reported smoking within the past 30 days.

Smoking rates were highest among survivors of bladder cancer (17.2 percent), followed by lung cancer (14.9 percent) and ovarian cancer (11.6 percent).

Of the 9.3 percent of cancer survivors who reported smoking within the past 30 days, 83 percent of them smoked daily, with an average of 14.7 cigarettes per day.

The current smokers were younger, had lower education levels and income and drank more alcohol, the study authors noted.

“Some survivors’ daily levels of smoking suggest a dependency on tobacco,” the authors concluded.

The authors suggested that surviving cancer could reduce a patient’s perception of risk, leading to continued tobacco use.

“If supported by evidence, this would be important to address in treatment for long-term survivors,” the researchers wrote.

The authors noted that the data came from patient self-reporting.

The study was published online Aug. 6 by the peer-reviewed journal Cancer, Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.

The American Cancer Society provided funding. The authors did not disclose any conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
August 6, 2014
Last Updated:
September 2, 2014