Quitting Smoking Ups Survival After Lung Cancer Diagnosis

By Alan Mozes HealthDay Reporter>

Wednesday, January 5, 2022 — For smokers, new research suggests it’s never too late to quit.

The study found that people who give up their habit after being diagnosed with lung cancer are more likely to live longer than those who keep lighting.

Investigators from Italy concluded that lung cancer patients who stop smoking at or near the time of diagnosis can look forward to a one-third (29%) longer survival than patients who never stop smoking.

“Smoking is by far the most important risk factor for lung cancer,” said study author Dr. Saverio Caini. “So a significant proportion of those who receive this diagnosis will be actively smoking when this occurs. Thus, this question is relevant to many patients.”

Lung cancer typically has relatively poor survival rates, adds Caine, chief medical epidemiologist at the Institute for Cancer Research and Prevention and Clinical Network in Florence. “Any opportunity to significantly improve your prognosis is worth pursuing,” he said.

“Constant smoking has a negative effect on the immune system, increases the risk of complications from surgery, and reduces the effectiveness of radiotherapy. And it’s probably the sum of all of these effects—and maybe others that we still don’t experience,” Caini noted. I know – that in the end we allow people who quit to have a better chance of survival than regular smokers. “

Dr. Andrea Mackie, a spokeswoman for the American Lung Association, highlighted a similar list of beneficial benefits.

For one thing, she agreed that treatments such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy “are more effective in the absence of tobacco.”

Mackie also noted that nicotine in cigarettes is known to promote tumor growth and progression in all cancers for which smoking is a known risk factor.

So, she said, “I’m not surprised by the degree of benefit” associated with smoking cessation.

This finding follows an analysis of 21 studies published between 1980 and late 2021. Together they included more than 10,000 patients with non-small cell lung cancer (the most common type), small cell lung cancer and/or lung cancers of an unspecified type.

The review team included only studies that focused on patients who quit smoking either at diagnosis of lung cancer, during treatment, or in the 12 months prior to diagnosis.

The results were published on January 4 at Chest Oncology Journal.

While they noted differences in study design, including types of treatment, the researchers said the data was robust enough to conclude that smoking cessation was “significantly associated” with longer disease-free survival times or progression.

Based on their findings, the team proposed that smoking cessation programs become part of lung cancer treatment plans, so patients get the encouragement and support they need to increase their chances of survival.

The bottom line, Caine said, is that smoking cessation is “an effective treatment for lung cancer patients, that is tolerated by everyone and without serious side effects, and at very low costs to the patient and the health system.”

Indeed, Kenny argues that smoking cessation should be strongly encouraged at the beginning of any cancer screening process, before patients have received a confirmed lung cancer diagnosis, or even if they have been fully certified.

“Unfortunately, there are not enough smoking cessation programs in the United States,” Mackey said. “I suspect this is in large part due to lack of funding for the service. We hope that data like this will incentivize policy makers and insurance companies to better compensate tobacco cessation services.”


  • Saverio Caini, MD, PhD, Senior Medical Epidemiologist, Cancer Risk Factors and Lifestyle Epidemiology Unit, Institute for Cancer Research and Prevention and Clinical Network, Florence, Italy
  • Andrea Mackie, MD, spokeswoman for the American Lung Association
  • Chest Oncology Journal, January 4, 2022

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