Smoking may lessen the body’s ability to counteract melanoma

A new study found that patients with malignant melanoma, a serious form of skin cancer, who smoke nicotine may have a lower chance of combating the illness compared to those who’ve never smoked.

The study, conducted by the University of Leeds and funded by Cancer Research UK, examined over 700 patients diagnosed with melanoma residing in northern England.

Within a decade after their diagnosis of melanoma, of the 700 patients, smokers were 40 percent less likely to combat the disease compared to non-smokers.  Based on a subset of 156 patients with the most genetic indicators for immune cells, researchers found smokers were nearly four and half times less likely to survive from melanoma than their counterparts.

The findings suggest that the consumption of cigarettes may weaken the body’s immune response to counteracting melanoma, giving further proof of why patients diagnosed with the form of skin cancer should refrain from smoking.

Although the study found a correlation between smoking and a patient’s chance of surviving melanoma, it could not conclude whether smoking caused a decrease in survival. Smoking is said to trigger adverse effects on the immune system, however, researchers are not sure which chemicals are responsible for this effect.

“The immune system is like an orchestra, with multiple pieces. This research suggests that smoking might disrupt how it works together in tune, allowing the musicians to continue playing but possibly in a more disorganised way,” said Julia Newton-Bishop, The study’s lead author.

“The result is that smokers could still mount an immune response to try and destroy the melanoma, but it appears to have been less effective than in never-smokers, and smokers were less likely to survive their cancer. Based on these findings, stopping smoking should be strongly recommended for people diagnosed with melanoma.”

The study was published in Cancer Research.

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