Smoking and Prostate Cancer?
Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: October 2017 | Last updated: March 2020
Many individuals know that smoking tobacco or utilizing any tobacco products can increase your risk of developing certain cancers. At least 70 of the chemicals in cigarette smoke are considered carcinogens, meaning they are cancer-causing chemicals. Additionally, some chemicals in tobacco are known to be radioactive, and can contribute to the development of cancer.1 Smoking also increases the risk of developing heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular complications, which men with prostate cancer may already be at a higher risk of developing.2
What does the research say?
Smoking can also lead to an increased risk of developing advanced prostate cancer, otherwise known as prostate cancer that has metastasized (spread) to other parts of the body. The more frequently you smoke, the higher the risk of metastasis. A similar pattern has been found for recurrent cancer after treatment. Essentially, the more you smoke, the greater the chance your cancer can return after surgery, radiotherapy, or other successful prostate cancer treatments or a new cancer can develop.2,3
Further, one study analyzing almost 30,000 individuals with prostate cancer found that individuals who were regular smokers had a 59 percent higher risk of developing a subsequent primary cancer (meaning a second cancer developing unrelated to your prostate cancer), and had a 102 percent higher risk for developing a smoking-related second cancer.4 While another prominent study reported that individuals who smoke and have undergone radical prostatectomy surgery (a common treatment option for localized prostate cancer) are at a higher risk of cancer recurrence, developing both castrate-resistant prostate cancer and advanced prostate cancer, and overall negative prognosis.5
What are the benefits of quitting smoking?
Research has documented numerous health benefits of quitting smoking including, but not limited to, clearer skin, managing heart rate, reducing the risk of developing cardiovascular complications, improving smoker’s cough, and improving mood. Quitting smoking can also reduce your risk of developing second cancer and managing treatment side effects. For example, it has been estimated that cancer survivors who are recent quitters instead of continuous smokers reduce their risk of developing a second cancer by 18 percent, as well as reduce their risk of developing smoking-related cancer by 26 percent.4 Other public health entities report that after 10 years of quitting, your risk of prostate cancer recurrence can be as low as those who have never smoked, and that quitting smoking or never smoking can help reduce quality of life-altering side effects of treatment, such as urinary problems after radiotherapy or bone thinning (osteoporosis) during hormone therapy.2
One major takeaway from all of these positive findings is that smoking is a modifiable risk factor that can be eliminated to increase your likelihood of positive health outcomes.
It’s important to note that making major lifestyle changes like quitting smoking may not be easy. The path to change is often not a straight one, and you may experience many ups and downs. However, one major factor that contributes to following through on quitting smoking, is having support. You can always speak with your doctor if you have questions or need advice, as well as join in-person or online support groups and communities. Enlisting the help of your friends and family to help keep you accountable can help you stay on the right path. Also, seeking support for feelings of depression, anxiety, and other emotional or mental issues that can come along with a cancer diagnosis (or quitting smoking) may also help your overall wellness and ability to stick to your survivorship care plan and decision to quit.3