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Too Many Cancer Patients Continue to Smoke
by: Robert Preidt

Cancer patients would receive better care if doctors did more to help patients quit using tobacco after they're diagnosed with cancer and if researchers monitored patient tobacco use during clinical trials of new cancer drugs, two new studies suggest.

"Tobacco use after cancer diagnosis has now become the elephant in the room, a huge issue in oncology that many in the field are ignoring," Ellen Gritz, the lead author of both papers and the professor and chairwoman of the department of behavioral science at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, in Houston, said in a prepared statement.

The first report, published in the January issue of the journal Cancer, suggests that the most opportune time to help tobacco users quit the habit is the moment after they're diagnosed with cancer. Without this help, up to 50 percent of cancer patients either continue to smoke after their diagnosis or stop smoking for only a short time, the report said.

The other article is a commentary urging that researchers who conduct clinical trials on new cancer treatments first assess whether patients taking part in these trials are smoking. The harmful health effects of smoking may negatively effect overall study results, the commentary noted.

It was published in the October issue of the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

"We now need to realize that it is to the benefit of cancer patients that we address both of these issues by promoting tobacco-cessation efforts and collecting data in clinical trials on tobacco use," Gritz said.

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