One study, to appear in the January issue of the journal Cancer but available online Nov. 28, suggests that the time to help tobacco users quit is the moment they are diagnosed with cancer.
It notes that, without help, up to one-half of cancer patients either continue to smoke after diagnosis or relapse after stopping for a short time.
The other report, a commentary published in October in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, argues that researchers conducting clinical trials should assess whether patients are using tobacco while participating in the study because the detrimental health effects of smoking could negatively influence overall results. The authors are not suggesting that patients who use tobacco should be excluded from these studies, but that smoking should be seen as another critical variable that could have an impact upon study outcome.
Both reports highlight the growing connection between tobacco use after cancer diagnosis and poorer treatment outcome. It has long been known that one-third of all cancers are associated with tobacco use, but new research demonstrates that if patients quit before treatment or participation in a clinical trial, their success rates, quality of life and chances of not developing a second primary cancer greatly improves.
"Tobacco use after cancer diagnosis has now become the elephant in the room, a huge issue in oncology that many in the field are ignoring," says the lead author of both papers, Ellen R. Gritz, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Behavioral Science.