Smoking Affects Immune Response to Melanoma
- Posted on: May 15 2019
When discussing the matter of skin cancer, we don’t often make the connection between this serious disease and the body’s natural immune response. Immunity is supposed to help ward off infections and colds, right? Yes. That and more.
According to a recent study published in Cancer Research, it is more likely that melanoma would cause mortality in a person with a history of smoking than in one who has never smoked. In fact, research funded by Cancer Research UK estimated this increased risk to sit at around 40%.
Researchers conducting the study concluded that smoking diminishes the body’s immune system. As a result, there are limited resources for the body to rely on in fighting melanoma. In observing more than 700 melanoma patients, researchers could not narrow down precisely which chemicals in cigarettes may be responsible for decreasing immunity, only that there is a connection between cigarettes and a compromised immune system’s action against melanoma, in particular.
Researchers were careful to also note that, while they believed there to be a correlation between smoking and poor melanoma prognosis, they could not conclude with 100 percent certainty that other factors were not also involved in the decline in survival rates among smokers. However, because the evidence clearly demonstrated a weaker immune response to melanoma among people who smoke, researchers did conclude that smokers with melanoma should be strongly encouraged to stop smoking.
Cancer and Smoking: A Dangerous Duo
Melanoma survival rates are affected by several factors, including the stage cancer has reached when detection occurs, where the melanoma has occurred, and the patient’s general health. Caught early, melanoma is highly treatable. Later-stage disease usually means that cancer has spread to lymph nodes and other organs, making it much more difficult to address.
In addition to affecting the immune system, smoking also affects the blood vessels. The nicotine in cigarettes causes constriction in the blood vessels. As a result, the body is less capable of healing wounds. This is because optimal blood flow is necessary for tissues to receive the oxygen and nutrients needed for tissue regeneration. When blood flow is restricted, tissues are more likely to heal poorly and possibly even die.
Patients need encouragement to stop smoking. They also need help. The American Lung Association is a resource both doctors and their patients can turn to for information about smoking cessation.
Melanoma prevention extends beyond mindful sun care habits. If you smoke and also have a risk for skin cancer (which everyone does), get the help you need to move towards your healthiest life. If you have been diagnosed with skin cancer or are a physician interested in advancing your skills in the treatment of skin cancer, contact us for more information on how we can help you.
Posted in: Skin Cancer