In a new study it was shown that smoking doubles the chances that a prostate cancer survivor will have the cancer spread and that he would die from the cancer.

Study co-author Dr. Michael Zelefsky, Vice Chair of Clinical Research in the Department of Radiation Oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center said, “Basically we found that people who smoke had a higher risk of their tumor coming back, of it spreading and, ultimately, even dying of prostate cancer.”

He also said that this “ this applied only to ‘current smokers’ who were smoking around the time they received external beam therapy.” He also said, “Former smokers did not have the increased risk for disease spread and recurrence that current smokers have.

Zelefsky did say that the side effects of the radiation seemed to affect all smokers, both past and prior equally. He included in potential side effects rectal bleeding and/or frequent and urgent urination.
These findings were reported online on Jan. 27 in the journal BJU International.

According to the researchers 19 percent of American adults smoke. The study looked at nearly 2,400 men who underwent treatment for prostate cancer between 1988 and 2005. Nearly 50 percent in the study were identified as “former smokers,” even if they had only kicked their habit shortly before beginning cancer treatment.

Disease progression, relapse, symptoms and deaths were all tracked for an average of eight years, as were all reactions to the radiation treatment.

The researchers determined that men surviving prostate cancer for a decade without experiencing any disease recurrence were about 66% in those men who never smoked. However, that figure fell to 52% among men who were current smokers.

Former smokers fared better than current smokers, with about 62 percent projected to hit the 10-year survival mark.

They also found that compared with those who had never smoked, both current and former smokers faced a notably higher risk for the toxic urinary side effects that can occur with radiation treatment.

Men need to curb their smoking, especially men with prostate cancer. We all need to become proactive and make smokers former smokers. Our hospitals need to devise and encourage men (actually all people) to join smoking cessation programs.

According to Dr. Stephen Freedland, a professor of surgery at Cedars-Sinai Health System in Los Angeles these finding adds to growing evidence that smoking is associated with aggressive prostate cancer. He did add that a cause-and-effect link was not proven in this new study.

Freedland said, “… that the risk of dying from prostate cancer goes up for smokers…. So, I would say that quitting smoking is better than not quitting, and not starting in the first place is the best thing.”

Joel T. Nowak, M.A., M.S.W.