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.