July 2023

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Health Capsule

Stop Smoking Early To Improve Cancer Survival

Lung cancer is responsible for one in five cancer deaths in the U.S., and smoking is largely to blame. Since the number of smokers has fallen in recent years, lung cancer rates have also dropped. Still, survival rates remain low. About 75% of lung cancer patients die within five years of diagnosis.

Previous studies found that quitting smoking can help to lengthen life. A new study found that for people with lung cancer, the earlier they had quit smoking before their diagnosis, the better their chance of survival.

Scientists studied more than 5,500 patients who were diagnosed with lung cancer. Some were smokers or former smokers when they were diagnosed. Others had never smoked.

Nearly 70% of the patients died during the study. Overall, current smokers had a 68% higher death rate than patients who had never smoked. Former smokers had a 26% higher death rate than the never-smokers.

But the researchers also found that lung cancer patients who had quit smoking before diagnosis were much more likely to survive longer than the smokers. And the longer they had gone without smoking, the better their chance of survival.

“Our participants’ smoking histories varied, with some having stopped smoking a few years before their diagnosis and others having stopped several decades before,” says study lead Dr. David C. Christiani of Harvard University. “This wide range gave us confidence in our results.”

To learn more about quitting smoking, visit smokefree.gov.