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Health Team

Smoking may contribute to higher prostate cancer death rates

Posted June 21, 2011 5:30 p.m. EDT
Updated June 21, 2011 7:00 p.m. EDT

Smokers may be more likely to die from prostate cancer, according to a recent review by the U.S. surgeon general.

Researchers looked at the benefits for those men who kicked the habit.

Former smoker Tyson Heilhecker said it was “quite difficult” for him to kick the habit, which he started at age 13. Smoking was common in his family, including his father who died of colorectal cancer.

Heilhecker had his last cigarette four years ago.

"I was considering going out in the pouring rain walking down the street to just get a pack of cigarettes, and something at that point, after trying a few other times, just kind of snapped,” he said.

For many, stopping smoking is still a daily struggle. However, many people, including men, keep smoking despite the health risks.

"Prostate cancer is now another disease that is associated with smoking,” said Stacey Kenfield, with the Harvard School of Public Health.

Researchers studied data of more than 5,300 men who were diagnosed with prostate cancer. They looked at smoking information provided prior to their diagnosis and followed the men for more than 20 years.

"Current smokers had a 61 percent increased risk of prostate cancer recurrence and a 61 percent increased risk of prostate-specific cancer mortality,” Kenfield said.

The study appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"Men who quit smoking at least 10 years prior to their prostate cancer diagnosis had risks of recurrence and mortality that were very similar to men who had never smoked,” Kenfield said.

There was also a higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease and overall death in men who were still smoking at the time of their diagnosis.

"Men should quit smoking to reduce the risk of prostate cancer recurrence and improve prostate-cancer specific survival,” Kenfield said.

Researchers say that current smoking was also associated with a more aggressive prostate cancer at diagnosis.