Almost half of lung cancer patients go back to cigarettes

In collaboration with the Press Association

New research has shown that the development of lung cancer and surgery to remove it is still not enough to put many smokers off picking up cigarettes again. A Washington University School of Medicine study of 154 smokers who had surgery to remove early stage lung cancer found almost half picked up a cigarette again within 12 months of their operations. The researchers found that 43 per cent of patients smoked at some point after surgery and 37 per cent were smoking 12 months after their operation. Furthermore, 60 per cent of those who took up smoking again did so within two months of surgery. Highlighting the dangerous addictiveness of cigarettes, Mark Walker, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor of medicine at Washington University, said: "These patients are all addicted, so you cannot assume they will easily change their behaviour simply because they have dodged this particular bullet. "Their choices are driven by insidious cravings for nicotine." Contrary to predictions, researchers found no link between the quantity of smoking and the ability to quit, and also discovered that higher education was associated with a greater likelihood of smoking after surgery. "It wasn't the number of cigarettes smoked daily that determined who couldn't quit, but how long they continued to smoke before surgery," Professor Walker explained. "About half of the patients studied smoked within two weeks of their operation. We are not certain what to make of the finding about education, because no other study about smoking cessation has reached that conclusion." The study is published in the December issue of Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention.