Smoking linked to prostate cancer

The results of a new study have established a link between prostate cancer and smoking, reports Science Daily.

Smoking has long been known to contribute to the risk of developing a variety of forms of cancer, but this is the first time a clear link has been established with prostate cancer. The link is not with the initial development of prostate cancer, however, but its recurrence following treatment.

The international study was led by MedUni Vienna and Basle University Hospital, and published in European Urology, the world's leading journal in the field of urology and nephrology. Their study compared data from six international cancer research centres – a total study population of 7,191 patients, each of whom had had their prostate glands surgically removed between 2000 and 2011. None of these patients had received preoperative radiotherapy, hormonal therapy or chemotherapy, and patients with known metastasis at the time of diagnosis were excluded.

The findings revealed that smokers and ex-smokers have a much higher risk of recurrence of prostate cancer following removal of the prostate gland due to the disease – twice the risk of those who had not been smokers.

Shahrokh F. Shariat, Principal of the University Clinic of Urology at MedUni Vienna, who set up the groundbreaking study with Malte Rieken, University Clinic of Urology at Basle University Hospital, commented: "Our study findings underline the importance of informing a prostate cancer patient about the negative effects of smoking,"

They also indicate that the negative impact of smoking on the risk of biochemical recurrence will have been offset within ten years of quitting. "It is never too late to quit smoking. On the contrary: as our study shows, it makes sense to quit even if you are already suffering from prostate cancer."

What remains unclear, however, is whether smoking is associated with the initial development of prostate cancer. Earlier studies in this area have provided contradictory results. "Many questions about prostate cancer and smoking are still unanswered,” says Shariat. “Further studies are therefore required to produce satisfactory answers."

Vincent Gnanapragasam, consultant urological surgeon at the University of Cambridge and Addenbrookes Hospital, and Clinical Adviser to Check4Cancer, comments: “Many people are aware of the hazards of smoking and the general risks of cancer, but it is common for patients to think it can no longer make much of a difference once they are diagnosed, and that the damage is already done. The fact is, many more people are surviving cancer than they did in the past – in fact, more people are surviving another ten years after diagnosis than are dying from it. As a result, we need to shift our thinking about cancer, and regard it not as the death sentence it once was perceived to be, but as a chronic condition which can, in many cases, be managed effectively. In this context smoking cessation may not only have potential benefits in cancer therapy but in an individuals general health. The assertion that it is ‘never too late to stop’ is perhaps the most important message.”