TIME Cancer

Nearly 1 in 10 Cancer Survivors Still Smokes

And only about 40% said they planned to quit

Nearly one in 10 cancer survivors reports smoking years after their diagnosis, according to a new study from the American Cancer Society.

Researchers analyzed data from 2,938 patients nine years after their diagnosis, and 9.3 percent were current smokers (within the pat 30 days). Of those patients, 83 percent smoked every day, averaging 14.7 cigarettes per day.

The study, published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, included patients with the 10 most common types of cancer: breast, prostate, bladder, uterine, melanoma, colorectal, kidney, Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, ovarian, and lung.

The highest rates of smoking appeared in patients who were diagnosed with bladder (17.2 percent) and lung (14.9 percent) cancer, which are both smoking-related cancers.

Cigarette smoking is known to decrease the effectiveness of cancer treatments, increase the probability of recurrence, and reduce survival time.

“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, director of tobacco research at the American Cancer Society (ACS) and lead author of the study, said in a statement.

Of the patients who reported smoking, 46.6 percent said they planned to quit, but 10.1 percent said they did not plan to quit, and 43.3 percent were unsure. In addition, 88.6 percent of the current smokers had quit before their diagnosis.

Researchers also looked at a variety of sociodemographic factors among the patients. Survivors were more likely to smoke if they were younger, female, had lower education, lower income or drank more alcohol. Those who smoked more, were older or were married were less likely to want to quit.

The study suggests the lack of intent to quit in older patients could suggest they don’t believe the difficulties of quitting will be worth the gains in quality of life or life expectancy.

Future studies should examine the importance of psychosocial variables and their relationships to current smoking or motivation to quit, the authors wrote in the study. “Those who smoke heavily long after their diagnosis may require more intense treatment addressing specific psychosocial characteristics such as perceptions of risk, beliefs of fatalism, etc. that may influence motivation to quit.”

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