A Medical University of South Carolina doctor is helping the Hollings Cancer Center step up efforts to help cancer patients stop smoking because — no big surprise here — it’s bad for them.

Dr. Graham Warren, vice chairman for research in radiation oncology at the MUSC Hollings Cancer Center, is developing programs to help oncologists determine if their patients are smokers and ways to help them stop.

Warren said a growing body of research shows that smoking during chemotherapy and radiation is even more harmful than common sense dictates. Tobacco use makes cancer treatments less effective and even toxic. He also said that cancer patients who smoke during remission are more likely to develop new tumors.

The American Association for Cancer Research issued a statement on Tuesday calling for the oncology community to start assessing and documenting tobacco use among patients during every patient visit.

“Smoking cessation treatment has long been regarded as a key cancer prevention strategy. However, research has shown that such treatment is often lacking in oncology settings,” the association said in the statement.

About 20 percent of the general population smokes. The estimated percentage is higher among cancer patients, Warren said. Research suggests that about 500,000 men and women out of about 1.5 million new cancer patients every year smoke, he said.

“It’s never too late to quit smoking,” he said. “Virtually all cancer patients can benefit from smoking cessation.”

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