A study released today in JAMA Network Open reported that smoking after a cancer diagnosis is associated with substantial additional costs of cancer treatment.
Hollings Cancer Center researcher Graham Warren, M.D., Ph.D., says the study establishes a model to estimate the economic burden of smoking on cancer treatment, which is information that can benefit patients as well as health care providers.
“These data estimate that smoking could result in $3.4 billion in additional cancer treatment costs nationally if patients continue to smoke after being diagnosed with cancer,” says Warren, lead author on the study and professor and vice chairman for Research in Radiation Oncology at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC).
“We know that continued smoking can lead to bad treatment outcomes for patients with cancer. The 2014 Surgeon General’s Report concluded that continued smoking after a cancer diagnosis increases the risk of dying from cancer and other smoking related diseases. This is really the first time that the economic burden of smoking on cancer treatment has been estimated.”
The authors analyzed how smoking decreased the effectiveness of cancer treatment and estimated how much it would cost to treat recurrence caused by smoking.
Michael Cummings, Ph.D., co-author on the study, described the results as “really profound.” Cummings, a member of the Hollings Cancer Center’s Cancer Control Program and co-leader of tobacco control research at MUSC, says it’s been known for years that smoking in the general population increases health care costs because smoking causes so many diseases.
“With the rising costs of cancer treatment, we really wanted to understand the economic impact for cancer patients.”
The study shows that continued smoking increases the risk of cancer treatment failure and that the average additional cancer treatment costs can approach $11,000 for each patient. Warren says these estimates are very likely conservative. “The study only focused on the cost of additional cancer treatment, but did not include the cost of treating side effects from smoking, such as increased cancer treatment toxicity or treatment of other smoking related diseases such as heart disease, strokes and other diseases known to be caused by continued smoking.”