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Cost of smoking

Dr. Graham Warren
Dr. Graham Warren and colleagues analyzed how smoking can affect costs associated with cancer treatment.

A study released on April 5, 2019, in JAMA Network Open reported that smoking after a cancer diagnosis is associated with substantial additional costs of cancer treatment.

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 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.

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.”

Warren says the study did not report on how smoking cessation would affect cost, but smoking cessation, even after a cancer diagnosis, is currently the best method health providers have to try and prevent the harmful effects of smoking on cancer treatment.

“The best decision a patient with cancer can make is to decide to quit smoking. The next step is to put resources into identifying the best treatment approach for all cancer patients, including those who smoke when they are diagnosed with cancer.”

Population Health Award

Graham Warren in the lab

Graham Warren, M.D., Ph.D., was recently recognized during MUSC’s 2019 Faculty Convocation for his work in promoting smoking cessation to patients at Hollings Cancer Center and beyond. The MUSC Foundation Population Health Award is based on the recipient’s outstanding contributions that impact the health of the community.