Study Finds Tobacco Use by Cancer Survivors Associated with More Symptoms Related to Treatment, but not Motivation to Quit Smoking

Findings may help inform tobacco cessation support efforts

May 22, 2023

New research from Wake Forest University School of Medicine shows that continued smoking or vaping by adult cancer survivors is associated with greater severity of symptoms related to treatment such as fatigue, pain and emotional distress. However, experiencing greater cancer-related symptom burden was not related to interest in quitting smoking or intentions of quitting, the study showed.

Continued smoking after a cancer diagnosis lowers survival rates, increases the likelihood of additional cancers and decreases the effectiveness of cancer therapies. Understanding the relationship between tobacco use and the symptoms that patients experience may help clinicians tailor tobacco cessation interventions for individuals with cancer.  

The study findings are published online in Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society. 

“Our finding that greater symptom burden was not associated with reduced interest in quitting smoking directly contradicts common assumptions that patients with cancer are resistant to tobacco cessation treatment because of their symptom burden,” said Sarah Price, Ph.D., a post-doctoral fellow in Cancer Prevention and Control at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and corresponding author of the study. “If smoking cessation is viewed as part of cancer symptom management, it may be more acceptable to both patients and the clinicians who treat them,” Price said. “Future research should also explore whether better management of cancer symptoms like pain, fatigue, or emotional problems helps survivors quit smoking.”

Read the full release from the journal.

Media Contact: Myra Wright,