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Smoking Habit Tough to Break Even After Lung Surgery

Patients quickest to light up again were those who delayed longest before giving it up

MONDAY, Dec. 11, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- A new study illustrates just how difficult it can be for smokers to kick the habit.

The U.S. study of 154 smokers who had surgery to remove early stage lung cancer found that, within 12 months after their surgery, 43 percent of them had picked up a cigarette at some point and 37 percent were actively smoking. Sixty percent of patients who started smoking again did so within two months after their operation.

"These patients are all addicted, so you cannot assume they will easily change their behavior simply because they have dodged this particular bullet. Their choices are driven by insidious cravings for nicotine," lead author Mark S. Walker, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor of medicine at Washington University in St. Louis, said in a prepared statement.

He and his colleagues found that patients who were quickest to start smoking again were those who delayed the longest before giving up smoking -- some on the same day of their lung-cancer surgery -- and who regarded smoking as a pleasurable activity they would have difficulty quitting.

Patients who were able to resist the longest before they picked up a cigarette after their surgery were least likely to be smoking a year after their operation.

"The results suggest that patients who wait until cancer surgery to quit smoking need assistance from the medical community to help them stay away from cigarettes, and that this intervention should begin as soon as possible after treatment," Walker said.

He noted that no such programs are currently available to lung cancer surgery patients in the United States.

The study is published in the December issue of the journal Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention.

More information

The American Cancer Society offers a guide to quitting smoking.

SOURCE: American Association for Cancer Research, news release, Dec. 11, 2006
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