It is well-known that smoking is a leading cause of lung cancer. Due to this, healthcare professionals advise anyone who smokes to quit the habit to reduce their risk of cancer. However, even after a lung cancer diagnosis, it is never too late to quit smoking,

Quitting smoking can have an overall positive effect on a person’s life expectancy, quality of life, and overall health after they receive a lung cancer diagnosis.

Although scientists have spent decades showing that smoking increases the risk of developing lung cancer, little research has investigated what happens to those who continue to smoke following a lung cancer diagnosis.

In recent years, more researchers have started to look at the effects of smoking on people living with lung cancer. Study findings point to overall improvements in quality of life, life expectancy, and other health factors when a person quits smoking.

This article explores what researchers have discovered about the benefits of quitting smoking after receiving a lung cancer diagnosis.

According to a 2020 report from the Department of Health and Human Sciences, there is insufficient evidence to show a relationship between general mortality rates and smoking cessation in those who are smokers when they receive a cancer diagnosis.

However, a 2021 study found that people who quit smoking following a diagnosis of lung cancer showed improvements in overall life expectancy compared with those who did not. Specifically, the study showed:

  • an average survival of 6.6 years among people who quit compared with 4.8 years among those who did not
  • a 5-year overall survival of 60.6% in those who quit compared with 48.6% in those who did not
  • a lower risk of both cancer-specific and all-cause mortality in those who quit

A person with lung cancer may see improvements in their quality of life if they quit smoking.

Some studies look at specific quality-of-life measures, such as pain level. An older study from 2009 found that people who continued to smoke after receiving their diagnosis had a higher level of persistent moderate or severe pain compared with people who had never smoked and those who had quit.

In a more recent study from 2020, researchers noted that quitting smoking improved both survival and quality of life.

Some evidence suggests that quitting smoking can help slow the growth of cancer cells. The nicotine in cigarettes may feed the development and growth of blood vessels that the cancer uses to grow.

A small 2021 study showed that quitting smoking could help prevent the progression of lung cancer. However, no other studies have yet replicated these results. More research is necessary to assess fully how quitting may affect the growth of lung cancer.

In a 2016 study, researchers found that people who continued to smoke after receiving a lung cancer diagnosis had a significantly increased risk of either tumor relapse or the cancer spreading to other areas. The study authors recommend that healthcare professionals encourage those who smoke to quit.

A comorbidity refers to any disease, including other cancers, that can occur alongside lung cancer. According to the GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer, continuing to smoke can affect health by:

  • increasing the risk of developing other cancers, including throat, mouth, bladder, stomach, cervical, pancreatic, and uterine cancer
  • increasing the risk of developing other diseases, such as high blood pressure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema, and plaque buildup in the arteries
  • making a person six times more likely to have a heart attack

Quitting can decrease the likelihood of many of these related health risks.

Continuing to smoke after a lung cancer diagnosis may decrease the effectiveness of a person’s treatment. Smoking can affect how well chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation therapy work. It may also cause surgical incisions to heal more slowly.

In an older study, researchers noted that quitting smoking can lead to several positive outcomes for the person, including improving the effectiveness of their lung cancer treatment.

Quitting smoking can improve the quality of life, extend survival, improve treatment effectiveness, and reduce the risk of other diseases. Despite these benefits, studies show that the majority of smokers continue to smoke following a lung cancer diagnosis.

People interested in quitting should talk with a healthcare professional, who can likely recommend local support groups and provide other advice to help a person quit.

Quitting smoking can be a difficult process for a lot of people. At times, a person may also find that they go back to smoking after quitting. suggests that people make a quit plan to help ensure success. Its sample plan has six steps to follow, which are:

  • setting a quit date
  • calculating overall savings
  • thinking about and recording the reasons for quitting, including overall health
  • learning about and recording triggers
  • developing strategies to deal with cravings
  • determining what strategies and tools can help with quitting successfully

A person can also take advantage of the quitting resources that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide. Additionally, they may benefit from checking out the American Lung Association’s tips on quitting.

Recent and longer standing research has shown that quitting smoking following a lung cancer diagnosis can benefit a person in several ways.

These include improving quality of life, increasing life expectancy, improving treatment outcomes, decreasing the risk of other diseases, and slowing the growth and spread of the cancer.

A person can talk with a healthcare professional for advice on how to quit.