Targeting Interventions at 1 in 10 Cancer Survivors Who Still Smoke

August 8, 2014
Christina Izzo

According to a new study by the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), nearly 1 in 10 cancer survivors continue to smoke despite the risk of secondary and additional primary cancers.

Lee Westmaas, PhD

According to a new study by the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), nearly 1 in 10 cancer survivors continue to smoke despite the risk of secondary and additional primary cancers.

The report, published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, found that 9 years after diagnosis 9.3% of cancer survivors in the United States are current smokers, with 83% of those survivors smoking daily and averaging 14.7 cigarettes per day.

“We need to follow up with cancer survivors long after their diagnoses to see whether they are still smoking and offer appropriate counseling, interventions, and possible medications to help them quit, “ Lee Westmaas, PhD, director of tobacco research at the American Cancer Society and lead author of the study, said in a statement.

Researchers analyzed data on nearly 3000 patients 9 years after their cancer diagnosis. Cancer survivors who were younger, had less education and income, or drank more alcohol were more likely to smoke.

“Smoking can cause new mutations among cancer survivors that can lead to secondary and additional primary cancers. It can also affect physical function and interfere with the efficacy of therapies,” Roy Herbst, MD, PhD, chief of medical oncology at Yale University and chair of the AACR Tobacco and Cancer Subcommittee said in a statement. “We need to take note of this and target this population for intervention.”

The study also reported that 40% of smokers said they planned to quit within the next month, but researchers found this intention was lower among survivors who were married, older, or smoked more.

In an attempt to educate older smokers, the National Institutes of Health has released a new Web resource with videos, worksheets, interactive features, strategies, quizzes, and other tools for those that want to or are thinking of quitting.

“Most older adults know that smoking is harmful, and many have tried unsuccessfully to quit, often a number of times,” said Erik Augustson, program director of the Tobacco Control Research Branch at the National Cancer Institute. “But stopping smoking is a difficult goal that still eludes many older smokers.”

“Smoking is addictive and having cancer does not guarantee that you will stop, even if that cancer was directly tied to your smoking,” said Westmaas. “We need to do more to intervene with these patients.”​