Fewer U.S. cancer survivors breathing secondhand smoke

A cigarette butt lies on a street in New York, U.S., May 10, 2017. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
A cigarette butt lies on a street in New York, U.S., May 10, 2017.

(Reuters Health) – Cancer survivors are less than half as likely to be exposed to secondhand smoke as they were a generation ago, a U.S. study suggests.

Even when they don’t smoke themselves, cancer patients who regularly breathe indoor air contaminated by tobacco smoke can have higher death rates and an increased risk of heart attack and strokes, the authors write in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.

For the study, researchers analyzed data on secondhand smoke exposure for 686 cancer survivors in nationally representative surveys done in two-year cycles from 1999 to 2012. Overall, only about 16 percent of participants were exposed to secondhand smoke by the end of the study period, down from roughly 40 percent at the beginning.

While the decline is encouraging, the trouble with the results is that these cancer survivors are being exposed to secondhand smoke at rates similar to the general population, said lead study author Dr. Oladimeji Akinboro, of Montefiore New Rochelle Hospital and Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

“It may reflect a lack of appreciation, on the part of patients with certain types of cancer along with their close household and social contacts, of the dangers that ongoing exposure of cancer patients and survivors to tobacco smoke, such…