It's never too late to Quit

Elderly man playing with grandson by the water.
Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Tobacco use increases the risk of almost 20 different types of cancer and contributes to 30 percent of all cancer deaths and up to 90 per cent of lung cancer deaths.

In Ontario, tobacco use continues to be the most common modifiable risk factor for cancer and other chronic diseases. What is less known is that smokers who develop cancer derive significant health benefits from tobacco cessation after a cancer diagnosis.

One in five new cancer patients coming to a cancer centre in Ontario are current or recent tobacco users (i.e., used tobacco in the past six months). Until recently smoking cessation has rarely been addressed with cancer patients. A growing body of evidence demonstrates that tobacco use in patients with cancer leads to poorer outcomes. For cancer patients who smoke, the evidence suggests that the risk of dying could be lowered by 30 to 40 per cent by quitting smoking at the time of diagnosis.

Quitting smoking is the best thing patients can do to help their cancer treatment work better, whether they’re having surgery, radiation treatment or chemotherapy.

  • Surgery: People who quit smoking are less likely to have infections or complications during or after surgery; 
  • Radiation Therapy: Quitting smoking helps radiation therapy work better and may reduce side effects. Smoking reduces the level of oxygen in blood and radiation therapy works best when the amount of oxygen in the body is normal;
  • Chemotherapy: Quitting smoking helps chemotherapy drugs work better in the body, as cigarette smoke has chemicals that can lower the amount of some chemotherapy drugs in the blood, making them less effective; and
  • Quitting smoking lowers the chance of a patient’s cancer coming back or getting another kind of cancer.
  • For some cancer diagnoses, the benefit of smoking cessation may be equal to, or even exceed, the value of state-of-the-art cancer therapies.