Smoking may increase cancer pain

Smoking is not only a cause of cancer, it also appears to be a cause of greater cancer-related pain. In a recent survey of 224 cancer patients representing a range of cancer diagnoses and disease stages, smoking was associated with increased pain severity and the extent to which pain interfered with a person's daily routine.

In the study, Joseph W. Ditre, PhD, of the department of psychology at Texas A&M University, and colleagues asked the participants to rate their perceived severity of bodily pain and the degree to which pain interfered with their daily routine. Current smokers reported more severe pain than people who never smoked, and more interference from pain than either never-smokers or former smokers.

Quitting smoking may reduce pain over time, as evidenced by the inverse relationship noted between pain and the number of years since quitting among the former smokers (Pain. 2011;152:60-65).

In an accompanying editorial (pp. 10-11), Lori A. Bastian, MD, of Durham (North Carolina) VA Medical Center and the department of internal medicine at Duke University, pointed out that the major strength of the study was the diverse types of cancer and disease stages included. “Clinicians must do more to assist cancer patients to quit smoking after their diagnosis,” she urged.

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