Smoking has long been associated with deadly forms of cancer. It is not only a risk factor for lung cancer; its effects on other organs of the body can also be equally fatal. Recent findings from a study have revealed the effects of smoking on the skin as well. The study reports chronic smokers to have reduced rates of survival from skin cancer in comparison to people who have never smoked in their life. According to the study, smokers have a 40 percent higher risk of dying from skin cancer than non-smokers.
In the U.S alone, more than 180,000 new diagnoses of melanoma are made per year. Compared to other forms of cancer, the mortality rate of skin cancer is relatively low. However, skin cancer results in the death of 9000 Americans every year.
The Research published in the Cancer Research
700 Diagnosed cases of melanoma
To understand the correlation of smoking with increased mortality in smokers
Researchers from the study observed the tumor genes and their patterns in a group of 156 patients possessing the greatest genetic signal for immune cells in the tumor.
The researchers discovered that smokers had a four and a half times decreased likelihood to survive from cancer than non-smokers. Although the number of immune cells within the tumor was equal in both smokers and non-smokers, the immune cells were less functional in smokers than in non-smokers.
Julia Newton-Bishop, Professor of Dermatology at the University of Leeds and lead author of the study stated: “It has been reported that smoking can have an effect on immunity and can have direct effects on cancer cells.”
Despite the presence of immune cells within the tumors, they didn’t provide any added survival benefit to tackle and fight the tumor. This led the researchers to believe smoking to have a role in the dysfunctional nature of the immune cells.
Although scientists strongly believe smoking to be the major causative reason behind the non-functioning immune cells, there is no data to prove this. A simple statistical correlation between smoking and decreased immunity can point towards the possible role of smoking in decreased survival rate, however, it cannot provide definite proof regarding the pathophysiology of smoking and reduced immunity.
The study has provided yet another reason to discourage this unhealthy habit, especially for people who have already been diagnosed with skin cancer or carry other significant risk factors for developing skin cancer. What about the people who have quit smoking? Do they still carry the same risks as current smokers?
To answer this question, Newton-Bishop stated “Our data could not differentiate with confidence between the effect of past smoking and current smoking; to distinguish would require a much larger study, with smokers who quit at different times before their melanoma diagnosis. Based on these findings, stopping smoking should be strongly recommended for people diagnosed with melanoma.”