Introduction: Previous research has suggested that childhood cancer survivors initiate smoking at rates approaching those of healthy individuals, even though smoking presents unique risks to survivors. The present study explores whether the attentional and executive functioning (EF) deficits associated with cancer and treatment place survivors of childhood cancer at increased risk for smoking.
Methods: Data from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study were examined to identify concurrent and longitudinal correlates of tobacco use. We explored whether childhood attention problems and adulthood executive dysfunction were associated with smoking among adult survivors of childhood cancer.
Results: Childhood attention problems emerged as a striking predictor of adult smoking nearly a decade later on average. Nearly half (40.4%) of survivors who experienced attention problems in childhood reported a history of smoking, a significantly higher rate of ever smoking, than reported by those without childhood attention problems (relative risk [RR] = 1.53, 95% CI = 1.31-1.79). Furthermore, they were nearly twice as likely to be current smokers in adulthood compared with those without childhood attention problems (RR = 1.71, 95% CI = 1.38-2.11). Similar associations were found between components of adult executive dysfunction and adult smoking.
Discussion: Childhood cancer and treatment are associated with subsequent deficits in attention and EF. Early detection of these deficits will allow clinicians to identify patients who are at increased risk for smoking, an important step in promoting and maintaining health in this medically vulnerable population.