Preventing smoking relapse in patients with cancer: A randomized controlled trial

Cancer. 2020 Dec 1;126(23):5165-5172. doi: 10.1002/cncr.33162. Epub 2020 Sep 9.


Background: Abstaining from smoking after a cancer diagnosis is critical to mitigating the risk of multiple adverse health outcomes. Although many patients with cancer attempt to quit smoking, the majority relapse. The current randomized controlled trial evaluated the efficacy of adapting an evidence-based smoking relapse prevention (SRP) intervention for patients with cancer.

Methods: The trial enrolled 412 patients newly diagnosed with cancer who had recently quit smoking. Participants were randomized to usual care (UC) or SRP. Participants in the UC group received the institution's standard of care for treating tobacco use. Participants in the SRP group in addition received a targeted educational DVD plus a validated self-help intervention for preventing smoking relapse. The primary outcome was smoking abstinence at 2 months, 6 months, and 12 months.

Results: Abstinence rates for participants in the SRP and UC groups were 75% versus 71% at 2 months and 69% versus 64% at 6 months (Ps > .20). At 12 months, abstinence rates among survivors were 68% for those in the SRP group and 63% for those in the UC group (P = .38). Post hoc analyses revealed that across 2 months and 6 months, patients who were married/partnered were more likely to be abstinent after SRP than UC (P = .03).

Conclusions: A smoking relapse prevention intervention did not reduce relapse rates overall, but did appear to have benefited those participants who had the social support of a partner. Future work is needed to extend this effect to the larger population of patients.

Keywords: cancer patients; intervention; relapse prevention; smoking.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms*
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Recurrence
  • Smoking Cessation / statistics & numerical data
  • Smoking Prevention / methods*
  • Smoking Prevention / statistics & numerical data
  • Social Support