Radiotherapy Risks are Much Higher for Smokers

Many people are aware that smoking increases their risk of lung cancer, but a new study has recently found that smokers treated for breast cancer have much higher risks than non-smokers of developing lung cancer and heart attack as a result of radiotherapy. The study looked at the risk factors of 40,781 women and found that for non-smokers the long-term risk of death from lung cancer or heart attack caused by radiation was only 0.5 percent where for smokers this risk increases to around 5 percent. Radiotherapy remains an important treatment for breast cancer as it strongly reduces the risk of dying from the disease. When individuals stop smoking at the time of radiotherapy they will avoid most of the lung cancer and heart disease risk from radiotherapy. For this reason, both non-smokers and ex-smokers can benefit from radiotherapy as the benefits outweigh any risk. On the other hand, for long-term continuing smokers the risks may be greater than the benefits.

“This research highlights that breast cancer patients who smoke need to be offered help and support in order to try and quit to minimise any risks from their treatment. It’s important to remember that modern day radiotherapy techniques have been redefined and improved to make sure it is targeted and effective while reducing the risk of side effects” – Dr Julie Sharp, Cancer Research UK

Learn more at Cancer Research UK