Spontaneous smoking cessation may be an early symptom of lung cancer, research suggests

Mar 01, 2011

Many longtime smokers quit spontaneously with little effort shortly before their lung cancer is diagnosed, leading some researchers to speculate that sudden cessation may be a symptom of lung cancer.

Most patients who quit did so before noticing any symptoms of cancer, according to the study, which was published in the March issue of the (JTO), the official monthly journal of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC).

"It is widely known that many lung cancer patients have stopped smoking before diagnosis," said Dr. Barbara Campling, professor in the Department of Medical Oncology at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. "This observation is often dismissed, by saying that these patients must have quit because of symptoms of their cancer. However, we found that the majority of lung cancer patients who stopped smoking before diagnosis quit before the onset of symptoms. Furthermore, they often quit with no difficulty, despite multiple previous unsuccessful quit attempts. This has led us to speculate that, in some cases, spontaneous smoking cessation may be an early symptom of lung cancer."

Researchers interviewed 115 lung cancer patients from the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center, all of whom had been smokers. Fifty-five (48%) had quit smoking before diagnosis, and only six of those (11%) had experienced symptoms of lung cancer by the time they quit. Patients with lung cancer who quit were as dependent on nicotine, when their smoking was at its highest point, as those who continued to smoke. Yet 31% reported quitting with no difficulty.

For comparison, researchers also interviewed patients with prostate cancer and those who had suffered a heart attack. They found that the median interval between quitting smoking and lung cancer diagnosis was 2.7 years. This compared with 24.3 years for and 10 years for a heart attack.

Researchers speculated that spontaneous may be a presenting symptom of , possibly caused by tumor secretion of a substance interfering with nicotine addiction.

The results should not encourage smokers to continue smoking, Campling said.

"There is a danger that this study could be misinterpreted as suggesting that heavy smokers should continue smoking," Campling said. "We emphasize that all smokers must be strongly encouraged to stop."

Explore further: How a common antacid could lead to cheaper anti-cancer drugs

Provided by International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer

5 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Broccoli may lower lung cancer risk in smokers

Nov 18, 2008

The cancer preventive properties of broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables appear to work specifically in smokers, according to data presented at the American Association for Cancer Research's Seventh Annual International ...

Recommended for you

Gene test aids cancer profile

1 hour ago

The first round of chemotherapy did little to suppress Ron Bose's leukemia. The second round, with 10 times the dose, knocked the proliferating blast cells down, but only by half.

How a common antacid could lead to cheaper anti-cancer drugs

18 hours ago

A popular indigestion medication can increase survival in colorectal cancer, according to research published in ecancermedicalscience. But in fact, scientists have studied this for years - and a group of cancer advocates want t ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.