Assessing Tobacco Use by Cancer Patients
GROWING BODY OF RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS HARMFUL EFFECTS OF CONTINUED TOBACCO USE BY CANCER PATIENTS; PATIENTS WHO SMOKE ARE AT RISK FOR LESS EFFECTIVE CANCER TREATMENTS, DEVELOPING NEW DISEASES, AND EARLY DEATH
Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) Hollings Cancer Center Researchers among National Group Calling for New Screening and Treatment Guidelines
April 10, 2013, Charleston, SC - A relatively new and compelling body of research about the effects of continued tobacco use by cancer patients has a growing number of physicians and researchers calling for increased tobacco screening and smoking cessation treatment as a standard part of care for cancer patients.
The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) this week issued a landmark policy statement calling on the oncology community to provide evidence-based tobacco cessation treatment for all cancer and cancer-screening patients and to evaluate tobacco as a complicating factor in clinical trial outcomes.
See the AACR Policy Statement
“Many people recognize that tobacco use increases the risk of developing cancer. However, continued tobacco use by cancer patients increases the risk of death due to cancer and other causes such as heart disease,” said Graham Warren, MD, PhD, vice chairman for Research in Radiation Oncology at the MUSC Hollings Cancer Center. “Tobacco use also decreases the effectiveness of cancer treatment, increases the toxicity of cancer treatment, and increases the risk of developing a second cancer.”
Dr. Warren, a member of the AACR Task Force on Tobacco and Cancer, was a contributing author on the policy statement published in Clinical Cancer Research, a prominent journal of the AACR.
Dr. Warren is also lead author on a multi-institutional international report published in March in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology (JTO) that found that while 90% of lung cancer physicians believe tobacco use affects cancer treatment outcomes and that tobacco cessation assistance should be provided, only 40% routinely provide that help. Reasons for not providing tobacco cessation help included physicians feeling patients would resist tobacco cessation treatment; and physicians not feeling prepared to offer cessation support to cancer patients.
Michael Cummings, PhD, co-leader of Hollings’ Tobacco Research Section was a co-author on the JTO report. “Cancer patients are often faced with a complex treatment schedule over which they have no control. Tobacco cessation is a very important part of treatment that places some of the control back in the patients’ hands.”
Anthony Alberg, PhD, associate director for Cancer Prevention and Control at Hollings, said the AACR policy statement and the JTO study are important steps in identifying tobacco use as a crucial factor in cancer treatment and outcomes.
“Tobacco has adverse effects for virtually all cancer patients regardless of the type of cancer,” Dr. Alberg said. “Assessing tobacco use and providing cessation assistance is the best chance a patient has for successful treatment and long-term health.”
ASCO Expert Corner: “Stopping Tobacco Use After a Cancer Diagnosis” ASCO Cancer.net, October 3, 2012 (http://www.cancer.net/all-about-cancer/cancernet-feature-articles/expert-information-asco/asco-expert-corner-stopping-tobacco-use-after-cancer-diagnosis, Podcast: http://www.cancer.net/sites/cancer.net/files/stopping_smoking_dr_warren.mp3)