Purpose: Accurate identification of tobacco use is critical to implement evidence-based cessation treatments in cancer patients. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the accuracy of self-reported tobacco use in newly diagnosed cancer patients.
Methods: Tobacco use questionnaires and blood samples were collected from 233 newly diagnosed cancer patients (77 lung, 77 breast, and 79 prostate cancer). Blood was analyzed for cotinine levels using a commercially available enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Patients with cotinine measurements exceeding 10 ng/mL were categorized as current smokers. Smoking status based upon cotinine levels was contrasted with self-report in current smokers, recent quitters (1 or less year since quit), non-recent quitters (>1 year since quit), and never smokers. Multivariate analyses were used to identify potential predictors of discordance between self-reported and biochemically confirmed smoking.
Results: Cotinine confirmed 100 % accuracy in self-reporting of current and never smokers. Discordance in cotinine and smoking status was observed in 26 patients (15.0 %) reporting former tobacco use. Discordance in self-reported smoking was 12 times higher in recent (35.4 %) as compared with non-recent quitters (2.8 %). Combining disease site, pack-year history, and employment status predicted misrepresentation of tobacco use in 82.4 % of recent quitters.
Conclusions: Self-reported tobacco use may not accurately assess smoking status in newly diagnosed cancer patients. Patients who claim to have recently stopped smoking within the year prior to a cancer diagnosis and lung cancer patients may have a higher propensity to misrepresent tobacco use and may benefit from biochemical confirmation.