07 August 2008

1 in 5 cancer survivors smoke

A fifth of British adults who survived childhood cancers currently smoke, while almost a third were regular smokers at one time in their lives, a new study reports.

A fifth of British adults who survived childhood cancers currently smoke, while almost a third were regular smokers at one time in their lives, a new study reports.

Compared to the general population, adult survivors of childhood cancer have a greater chance of developing cardiovascular disease, lung problems and second malignancies because the long-term effects of the original cancer and its treatment, as well as some genetic predispositions, leaves them vulnerable to multiple cancers. Smoking would be just added risk for this population.

The findings, published in the July 29 online issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, are based on more than 10 000 surveys received back from adult survivors who were first diagnosed with cancer between 1940 and 1991.

Researchers learned those who had central nervous system cancers or heritable retinoblastoma were least likely to smoke, while survivors of Wilms' tumor, Hodgkin's lymphoma or soft tissue sarcomas were most likely to report being a regular current smoker. Those treated with radiation or chemotherapy were less likely to be smokers than individuals who had not received that type of therapy.

Smokers risk second malignancies
Respondents who did not have regular hospital follow-up appointments were more likely to smoke than those who did.

The higher rate of smoking among survivors of Wilms' tumor, Hodgkin's lymphoma, and soft tissue sarcomas is alarming as, based on past research, these individuals have a particularly high risk for second malignancies.

The researchers concluded that although the rate of smoking in adult survivors of childhood cancer is approximately half that of the general British population, reducing smoking prevalence in this group requires greater effort. In general, any program of clinical follow-up for survivors of childhood cancer should include advice on the health risks of smoking, the authors said.

In an accompanying editorial, Karen Emmons, of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, noted that the new report had remarkably similar findings to a US Childhood Cancer Survivor Study.

In that research, 17 percent of adult US survivors reported being current smokers and 28 percent reported having been regular smokers at some time.

Emmons backed the British researchers' call to increase efforts to reduce the rate of smoking in adult cancer survivors, noting that fewer than half of the survivorship programs in the Unites States offer smoking cessation services. – (HealthDay News, August 2008)

Read more:
Toenails tested for nicotine
Beer ups cancer risk


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Ask the Expert

Cancer expert

CANSA’s purpose is to lead the fight against cancer in South Africa. Its mission is to be the preferred non-profit organisation that enables research, educates the public and provides support to all people affected by cancer. Questions are answered by CANSA’s Head of Health Professor Michael Herbst and Head of Advocacy Magdalene Seguin. For more information, visit

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules