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Smoking in Cancer Care (PDQ®)

Patient Version
Last Modified: 06/27/2014

Risks of Smoking During Cancer Treatment



Quitting smoking is helpful after cancer is diagnosed.

Studies have found that smokers who quit are more likely to recover from cancer than are patients who continue to smoke.

If you keep smoking, you may not respond well to treatment.

If you continue to smoke during cancer treatment, you may not respond to treatment as well as patients who do not smoke. Also, you may have worse side effects from treatment. For example, patients who are given radiation therapy for laryngeal cancer are less likely to get their voice back to normal if they keep smoking.

Wounds from surgery heal more slowly in patients who keep smoking. Studies have found that prostate cancer patients who keep smoking have a higher risk of the cancer coming back, and of death from prostate cancer. However, prostate cancer patients who quit smoking for 10 years or longer lower their risk of death to about the same as nonsmokers.

Cancer patients who keep smoking increase their risk of having a second cancer.

You have a higher risk of a second cancer if you keep smoking, whether you have a cancer that is smoking-related or not smoking-related. The risk of a second cancer may last for up to 20 years, even if the first cancer has been treated and is in remission (signs and symptoms of cancer have disappeared). Patients with oral and pharyngeal cancer who smoke have a high risk of a second cancer, but the risk is much less after 5 years of not smoking.