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Surprising First Symptom of Lung Cancer?

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Surprising First Symptom of Lung Cancer?

Recent research shows that longtime smokers often present a similar symptom before their cancer is diagnosed: They spontaneously quit smoking with little effort. Researchers speculate that sudden cessation may be a symptom of lung cancer.

Most patients who quit did so before noticing any symptoms of cancer, according to the study, which was published in the March issue of the Journal of Thoracic Oncology (JTO), the official monthly journal of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC).

Researchers found that 48 percent of the lung cancer patients they included in the study shared this experience. For comparison, researchers also interviewed patients with prostate cancer and those who had suffered a heart attack: The median interval between quitting smoking and lung cancer diagnosis was 2.7 years, compared with 24.3 years for prostate cancer and 10 years for a heart attack.

“It is widely known that many lung cancer patients have stopped smoking before diagnosis,” said Dr. Barbara Campling, professor in the Department of Medical Oncology at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. “This observation is often dismissed, by saying that these patients must have quit because of symptoms of their cancer. However, we found that the majority of lung cancer patients who stopped smoking before diagnosis quit before the onset of symptoms. Furthermore, they often quit with no difficulty, despite multiple previous unsuccessful quit attempts. This has led us to speculate that, in some cases, spontaneous smoking cessation may be an early symptom of lung cancer.”

The researchers suggest that spontaneous smoking cessation may be caused by tumor secretion of a substance interfering with nicotine addiction.

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.


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4:38AM PDT on Aug 31, 2014

I quit about 15 years ago. Still here, but I am sure it is not the same for everyone.

12:56PM PDT on Aug 28, 2014


3:45PM PDT on Jun 10, 2014

This just seems anecdotal.

8:58PM PDT on May 17, 2014


6:31PM PDT on May 17, 2014

Whenever I see young people smoking.

I have to fight the urge to run up, & slap the cigarette out of their mouths.

12:55PM PDT on May 16, 2014

CINDI S: Wow! Despite the fact, that you are not yet dead, does this mean that you are now satisfied? Don and I CAN! :-))

10:58AM PDT on May 16, 2014

My mother was a very heavy smoker, and refused to quit, until her doctor basically advised her to do so or die. Sometimes that what it takes to hit bottom. However, I also know of two other close friends who refused to do, no matter what, and DID die. Addiction of any kind is so sad.

5:19AM PDT on May 16, 2014

Doing no more harm to yourself, the human

1:51PM PDT on May 14, 2014

When I quit smoking it was also spontaneously with little effort... and ... still alive...

6:44AM PDT on May 13, 2014

So stopping smoking is a sign of lung cancer? I quit 32 years ago. Hello? I'm still here.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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