Smoking Hurts Head-and-Neck Cancer Outcomes

Lower five-year overall survival in patients who continue smoking during radiation therapy

FRIDAY, March 4 (HealthDay News) -- Cigarette smoking during radiation therapy for head-and-neck cancer is associated with a worse clinical outcome, according to a study published in the February issue of the International Journal of Radiation Oncology*Biology*Physics.

Allen M. Chen, M.D., from the University of California Davis Cancer Center in Sacramento, and colleagues evaluated the effect of active smoking on patients undergoing radiation treatment for head-and-neck cancer. The clinical outcomes of 101 patients with recently diagnosed squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck who continued smoking during treatment were compared with 101 matched patients who stopped smoking before the start of radiotherapy. The patients were followed for an average of 49 months.

The investigators found that, compared to smokers who quit smoking before radiotherapy, active smokers had significantly reduced five-year overall survival (23 versus 55 percent), disease-free survival (42 versus 65 percent), and locoregional control (58 versus 69 percent). Results were similar for patients treated with postoperative or definitive radiation therapy. Active smokers had a significantly increased incidence of Grade 3 or greater complications compared to those who had stopped smoking (49 versus 31 percent).

"Regardless of the underlying reasons, our findings, showing that continued smoking is associated with worse outcomes for patients who continue to smoke compared with those who quit before starting treatment with irradiation for head-and-neck cancer, provide both clinicians and patients alike with compelling evidence supporting the role of smoking cessation in this setting," the authors write.

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