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Smoking Intensity Predicts Bladder Cancer Severity
Researchers have discovered that bladder cancers in those who smoke most intensely were more likely to be deadly than in people who didn't smoke or smoked less.
By Erin Hicks
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MONDAY, Jan. 14, 2013 —It’s been well documented by researchers that smoking is one of the most common causes of bladder cancer, including in a recent study in theJournal of the American Medical Association.
But how smoking affects the progression of bladder disease hasn’t been as well known.
In a study published in the journalCancer,researchers from the University of Miami and the University of Southern California report that bladder cancers in those who smoked most intensely were 50 percent more likely to be deadly than bladder cancers in those who never smoked or smoked less. In addition, they report they've discovered markers that may someday improve treatment choices for the most serious bladder cancers.
For the study, the researchers looked at bladder tumors and smoking history in 212 multi-ethnic patients recruited through the Los Angeles County Cancer Surveillance Program between 1987 and 1996.
A person was classified as a smoker if he or she smoked at least one cigarette per day for six months or longer. The second group of smokers were patients who smoked for 31 to 40 years or more than 20 cigarettes a day for less than 30 years, and group three was composed of patients who smoked for more than 40 years. They found that at five years, the likelihood of dying from bladder cancer was 5 percent for those who never smoked or were light smokers; 15 percent for patients who were moderate smokers, and 50 percent for those patients who were the most intense, or heavy, smokers.
Forecasting Bladder CancerOutcomes
In addition to the link between smoking intensity and seriousness of bladder cancers, they also found changes in particular proteins in bladder cancers that became deadly.
"We have identified a panel of nine molecular markers that can robustly and reproducibly predict bladder cancer prognosis independent of standard clinical criteria and smoking history," said Anirban Mitra, MD, PhD from the USC, in a press release.
The researchers found that patients with alterations in six to nine of these bladder cancer markers had very poor outcomes, possibly indicating they could have benefited from more aggressive treatment. They also said the study’s findings confirm the theory that an accumulation of changes in proteins is more important than individual changes in determining the characteristics of a given cancer.
The study also reinforces the fact that smoking — especially smoking a lot — is bad for your health in a number of ways beyond lung cancer and COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Not only can smoking increase your risk of bladder cancer, it is a risk factor for other types of illnesses not immediately associated with cigarettes. For women who already have HPV, the human papillomavirus, it can triple the risk of cervical cancer, according to anotherJAMAstudy.
If you’re a smoker and you’ve resolved to quit this year, there’s good news: Experts have found your health begins to improve within minutes of the last puff from the last cigarette, and the improvement continues in the years that follow.
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