A smoking cessation program successfully kept almost half of those with cancer off cigarettes for at least nine months in a recent study.

Smoking after a cancer diagnosis is associated with lower effectiveness of cancer treatment, poorer survival rates and higher rates of complications, cancer recurrence and additional cancer diagnoses. Quitting smoking, on the other hand, can positively impact these outcomes. Recently, the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer called for greater efforts to promote smoking cessation among those diagnosed with cancer.

Publishing their findings in JAMA Network Open, researchers from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center assembled a prospective cohort of smokers who participated in the center’s Tobacco Treatment Program between January 2006 and August 2015.

The study involved 3,245 participants, including 2,343 who currently had cancer, 309 who previously had cancer but were successfully treated and 593 who had no history of cancer.

The smoking cessation treatment consisted of an in-person medical consultation, six to eight in-person and telephone follow-up counseling sessions and 10 to 12 weeks of pharmacotherapy.

“We tailor nicotine replacement therapy, non-nicotine medications, and [a] combination of these as recommendations to each individual and provide support through behavioral counseling sessions over eight to 12 weeks following their initial consultation,” Maher Karam-Hage, MD, a professor of behavioral science at MD Anderson and medical director of the Tobacco Treatment Program, said in a press release. “Through this combined approach, we’ve seen effective results in cessation and abstinence.”

A total of 1,588 (48.9%) of the participants were men, and 322 (9.9%) were Black, 172 (5.3%) were Latino and 2,498 (76.0%) were white. The average age was 54 years old. The average number of cigarettes smoked per day was 17.1, and participants had smoked for an average of 33 years. A total of 1,393 (42.9%) of the participants had at least one psychiatric diagnosis.

Three months after the end of the smoking cessation program, 45.1% of the participants reported they were not smoking, a figure that was 45.8% at six months and 43.7% at nine months post-treatment.

These results were largely consistent, meaning that the Tobacco Treatment Program’s success rate did not differ significantly based on whether smokers currently had cancer, had previously had cancer or had smoking-related cancer. One exception was that those who had head and neck cancers were 31% more likely to quit smoking than those with other cancers.


“Patients deserve the absolute best opportunity we can give them to quit smoking,” said Paul Cinciripini, PhD, chair of behavioral science at MD Anderson, director of the Tobacco Treatment Program and lead author on the study. “Based on our data, we recommend offering comprehensive smoking cessation to cancer patients as a clinical standard of care.”

To read a press release about the study, click here.

To read the study, click here.