Smoking – Yes, it is worth quiting.

Well, it’s true that quiting smoking can be more difficult than quiting heroin, at least according to those who have quit both drugs.

It is also true that it often takes multiple attempts to quit smoking,  just as it can take multiple attempts to quit other drugs.  Does this make it a “waste of time and effort” to attempt quiting? Not at all, but from the start it is important to understand that  quiting is a very difficult task for some people, and that it is not a “one-time thing.”  The first time (or even the second or sixth time) you quit  smoking are just steps in the journey. Those who have stayed clean after quiting multiple times will often tell you that each time they quit was an important step toward their ultimate success in staying clean. People often think quiting drugs is an event. It isn’t an event; Its a process.

Now there is even more research that quiting is worth it from a health perspective. It is even worth it if you have been diagnosed with early stage lung cancer!.

Worldwide, lung cancer is the leading cancer second only to breast cancer, and 90% of cases are associated with smoking, with a 20-fold risk for lifetime smokers.

A study published on January 21 2010,  in the British Journal of Medicine (cited by CME) reports:

It is never too late for people to stop [smoking], even when they have lung cancer,”

The editorial accompanies a meta-analysis that provides “preliminary evidence that smoking cessation after diagnosis of early-stage lung cancer improves prognostic outcomes,” according to its authors.

The adjusted estimates suggest that the risk for death is halved in patients who stop smoking, say the researchers, led by Amanda Parsons, research fellow at the UK Center for Tobacco Control Studies at the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom.

“The estimated number of deaths prevented is larger than would be expected from a reduction of cardiorespiratory deaths after smoking cessation, so most of the mortality gain is likely to be due to reduced cancer progression,” they write.

“These findings indicate that offering smoking-cessation treatment to patients presenting with early-stage lung cancer may be beneficial,” they conclude.

The difference in survival between patients who stopped smoking and those who continued is “striking,” said H. Jack West, MD, medical oncologist at the Swedish Cancer Institute in Seattle, Washington, and author of the Blowing smoke blog on Medscape Oncology. This effect is larger than that seen with postoperative chemotherapy, he added.

“If smoking cessation can improve true cure rates even modestly, it is absolutely an intervention worth pursuing,” he said.

However, both the study authors and Dr. West emphasized that the finding pertains only to early-stage lung cancer patients.

Unfortunately, it is bad news for those with advanced lung cancer. They do not benefit  from stopping smoking, and sadly most people who are diagnosed with lung cancer are in the last months of their lives. It is unclear what proportion of people continue to smoke  after a diagnosis of lung cancer.  Estimates vary from 13% to 60%.

Another study recently found that persons using nicotine patches often stop using them too soon. They work much better if they are kept on for 24 weeks, which is longer than many people wear them.    In fact, those who stayed on the patch for a whopping 52 weeks had even longer abstinence rate, but perhaps there is not enough of a difference to make the 52 week treatment worth while. (Anals of Internal Medicine, February 2, 2010.)