Tobacco use among long-term survivors of head and neck cancer treated with radiation therapy

Allen M. Chen, Esther Vazquez, Jean Courquin, Paul J. Donald, D Gregory Farwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Purpose The objective of this study is to determine the prevalence of tobacco consumption (i.e., cigarette use) among survivors of head and neck cancer after treatment with radiation therapy (RT). Methods and materials A longitudinal study was conducted with 230 patients previously treated with RT for squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck. All patients were clinically without evidence of disease and had a minimum of 1 year follow-up. Patients were summarily asked about the use of tobacco products at each follow-up visit. To explore for associations between potential predictors of post-RT smoking, the Chi-square test and Spearman's correlation coefficient were employed. Results The percentage of patients who were actively smoking was 21%, 21%, and 20%, at 1, 2, and 3 years post-RT, respectively. When the analysis was limited to patients with a former smoking history (i.e., excluding all never-smokers), these percentages increased to 32%, 27%, and 25%, respectively. The intensity of smoking at follow-up ranged from one cigarette daily to 2.5 packs daily. Forty-two of 76 (55%) patients who were smoking at diagnosis were found to be smoking at 1-year follow-up compared to 7 of 154 patients who were not (p < 0.001). The only factor that significantly predicted for persistent smoking at follow-up was the presence of a preexisting psychiatric condition (most commonly, a mood disorder) at initial cancer diagnosis. Conclusions A significant proportion of former smokers are actively smoking during follow-up despite having completed intensive RT and having their cancers evidently under control. Innovative interventional approaches to target those at highest risk for continued smoking are warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)190-194
Number of pages5
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2014


  • cancer survivorship
  • head and neck
  • radiation therapy
  • smoking
  • tobacco

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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