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Do you know anyone who has cancer and smoking? It's like suicide

Harold Mandel's picture
A killer cigarette

Smoking has been found beyond a shadow of a doubt to be linked to cancer and premature death. New research shows if you are already diagnosed with cancer and you smoke your chances of death will be dramatically increased. It's hard to believe with all of the news about smoking being associated with premature death, the cigarette business is still booming. If you want to increase your chances of a long and healthy life you have simply got to stay away from smoking whether or not you have cancer.

Researchers have found an association between smoking after a diagnosis of cancer has been made and long-term survival, as reported upon in a research article in Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention. In the Shanghai Cohort Study the researchers studied the association between postdiagnosis smoking and the risk from all-causes of death in 1,632 cancer patients.

Annual in-person interviews determined any changes of smoking status after the baseline interview. It was observed that patients who continued to smoke after a diagnosis of cancer was made experienced a statistically significant 59 percent increase in risk of death in comparison with patients with cancer who did not smoke after a diagnosis of cancer was made. The researchers concluded smoking significantly increased the risk of dying for male patients suffering from cancer. This study backs up the position that cigarette smoking is the most preventable cause of cancer.

The findings that men who continued to smoke after a diagnosis of cancer had an increased risk of death in comparison with those who quit smoking after diagnosis, have been discussed in more depth in an article by the American Association for Cancer Research on Dec. 6, 2013. After adjusting for factors which included age, cancer site, and treatment type, men who smoked after a diagnosis of cancer were found to have a 59 percent increase in risk of death from all causes in comparison with men who did not smoke after a cancer diagnosis. When these findings were limited to men who were already smokers at the time of diagnosis, those men who continued smoking after a diagnosis of cancer had a 76 percent increase in risk of death from all causes in comparison with those who quit smoking after a diagnosis.

It has been determined that many cancer patients and their health care providers appear to think that it is not worth the effort to quit smoking once a diagnosis of cancer has been made, since the damage from smoking has already been done. However, Dr. Li Tao, who is an epidemiologist at the Cancer Prevention Institute of California in Fremont, has said, “Our study provides evidence of the impact of postdiagnosis smoking on survival after cancer, and assists in addressing the critical issue of tobacco control in cancer survivorship.”

The risk of death was found to vary with different cancer organ sites in cancer patients who continued smoking after a diagnosis was made, as follows:

1: 2.95-fold for bladder cancer patients who continued smoking

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2: 2.36-fold for lung cancer patients who continued smoking

3: 2.31-fold for colorectal cancer patients who continued smoking

Dr. Tao has said that as far as he and his associates know only a small number of cancer patients who are smokers at the time of cancer diagnosis are given formal smoking cessation counseling from their physicians or health care providers. Furthermore, less than 50 percent of these cancer patients eventually quit smoking after the diagnosis is made. Dr. Tao thinks that there is a great deal of room for improvement in regard to tobacco control in the cancer postdiagnosis setting for the increasing population of cancer survivors.

Cancer patients are more likely than people in the general population to receive treatment on an inpatient basis or via prolonged outpatient visits. Dr. Tao says, “Health care providers have an important ‘window of teachable moment’ to engage in tobacco-use counseling during these visits." The firm evidence from this study in establishing the association of cigarette smoking in cancer survival should be used to encourage implementation and enforcement of smoking cessation interventions aimed at helping patients to increase their chances to experience better outcomes.

It is suggested that policymakers should consider including information dealing with health outcomes of smoking cessation in educational materials for intervention programs and policies which target cancer survivors. In the search for manners to help people quit smoking EmaxHealth reporter Denise Reynolds, RD has written about how improving your diet may help you quit smoking. Reynolds points out that meats, caffeinated beverages and alcoholic beverages may actually enhance the taste of tobacco, while fruits and vegetables may instead worsen the taste of cigarettes.

It has been my observation that many people who are very knowledgeable about the association of smoking with cancer continue smoking. I have even witnessed a case of a now deceased radiologist, who went to the top in his field and who insisted his health care values should be emulated by other people, smoke himself to death. Even after reviewing cases of lung cancer and other cancers day after day for decades this physician continued to smoke everyday, right up until the time he himself was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, and thereafter until he died in the agony of his own hypocrisy in dealing with health care.

It appears the addiction to smoking is so strong it may set off some type of psychological suicide wish in a lot of people. Dr. Tao is absolutely right in taking the position there must be more aggressive initiatives aimed at educating the public about the dramatic effects of smoking cessation on survival in cancer patients. Perhaps some visits to the morgue would help drive the point home.

Although I personally have some serious reservations about the motives of the FDA in clearing many drugs for clinical use which often appear to cause more harm than good, particularly in the area of psychiatry, in the area of smoking I agree with the initiatives of the FDA. I have previously written an article for EmaxHealth on the FDA having the right idea with graphic smoking warnings.