FRIDAY, Feb. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Patients with head and neck
cancer who continue to smoke while undergoing radiation treatments
have a much lower long-term survival rate than those who kick the
addiction, researchers have found.
In the study of patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the
head and neck, 23 percent of 101 patients who continued to smoke
were still alive five years after treatment, compared with 55
percent of matched patients in a control group who quit smoking
before they began radiation therapy.
In addition, 53 of the patients who continued to smoke suffered
cancer recurrence, compared with 40 patients in the control group.
The patients who kept smoking also had more treatment-related
complications such as the development of scar tissue, hoarseness
and difficulty eating.
The poorer outcomes for persistent smokers were found both in
patients who had radiation alone and in those who had surgery prior
to radiation, the study authors noted in the report published in
the February issue of the
International Journal of Radiation
"I've always told patients, 'You should really stop smoking,' but I had no tangible evidence to use to convince them that they would be worse off if they continued to smoke," lead author Dr. Allen Chen, residency training program director at the University of California, Davis, School of Medicine, said in a news release from the American Society for Radiation Oncology.
"I wanted concrete data to see if smoking was detrimental in terms of curability, overall survival and tolerability of treatment. We showed continued smoking contributed to negative outcomes with regard to all of those," he added.
Further research is needed because actual cause of death was not
determined for each patient, so the study did not establish a
cause-and-effect relationship between smoking during treatment and
worse outcomes, Chen explained.
If a person doesn't quit smoking even after being diagnosed with
head and neck cancer, they might have other risk factors that
contribute to poor survival, he pointed out, including alcohol
abuse, less social support and other high-risk health
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about
head and neck cancer.