For the study, a random sample of 790 bladder cancer survivors was surveyed by researchers.
Giving up smoking tobacco after being diagnosed with cancer is certainly not a matter of "too little, too late." Quitting can help to prolong survival, make cancer treatment more effective and reduce the risk of secondary cancers developing.
"For people who are smoking at the time of a cancer diagnosis, the first step in wanting to quit is knowing that smoking caused the cancer and that continuing to smoke will result in additional harm," says study author Dr. Jeffrey Bassett.
Smoking is the most important risk factor for bladder cancer. The American Cancer Society (ACS) report that smokers are at least three times as likely to get bladder cancer as nonsmokers.
However, previous research has reported that only 25-36% of the US population is aware of the link between using tobacco and bladder cancer, with this figure lower among active smokers.
The ACS estimate that there will be around 74,690 new cases of bladder cancer diagnosed and 15,580 deaths from the disease by the end of 2014. At present, over 500,000 people in the US are survivors of bladder cancer.
Urologists are a major source of information to patients
Dr. Bassett and colleagues investigated how much patients knew about the association between bladder cancer and tobacco use, assessing the impact that different information sources had on their thoughts about their cancer's cause. The study is published in the journal Cancer.
A random sample of 790 bladder cancer survivors, diagnosed between 2006 and 2009, was obtained from the California Cancer Registry. Of these patients, 68% had a history of tobacco use, and 19% had been active smokers at the time of their cancer diagnosis.
The researchers found that tobacco use was the most cited risk factor for bladder cancer by the patients. Active smokers were found to be more knowledgeable of tobacco use's role in the causation of bladder cancer, with 90% showing awareness, compared with only 64% of former smokers and 61% of those who had never smoked.
Urologists - physicians specializing in problems of the urinary tract and male reproductive organs - were reported as the primary source of bladder cancer information for patients. A total of 82% of active smokers cited urologists as their main source of information.
From their findings, the researchers calculated that active smokers were 6.37 times more likely than people who had never smoked to acknowledge tobacco use as a risk factor for bladder cancer. Smokers who cited their urologist as their main source of information were 2.8 times more likely to believe tobacco use caused their bladder cancer.
Results highlight the importance of the diagnosing physician
Dr. Bassett says that their findings debunk the myth that smokers refuse to acknowledge the risks that their tobacco use has, as well as convey how important the role of the urologist is:
"Our findings also highlight the importance of the diagnosing physician in making sure that their patients are aware of the role that smoking played in their new cancer diagnosis. Patients who have this knowledge are better equipped to use the cancer diagnosis as motivation for quitting smoking, thereby improving their odds of survival."
A reliance on self-reporting of tobacco use and the risk of recall bias limit the results of the study, particularly as the patients surveyed were contacted between 3-4 years after their initial bladder cancer diagnosis.
Despite these limitations, the researchers state their findings show that awareness of the link between bladder cancer and tobacco use is prevalent among patients with the disease.
"Because urologists were identified as vital sources of information about the risk of bladder cancer, engaging urologists in tobacco-cessation efforts may be an opportunity to meaningfully impact the long-term health outcomes of active smokers who are diagnosed with bladder cancer," they conclude.
Previously, Medical News Today reported on a study of cancer patients, suggesting that patients using e-cigarettes are equally or less likely to quit smoking than those who do not use them.