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E-Cigarettes Don't Help Cancer Patients Quit Smoking: Study

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MONDAY, Sept. 22, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- New research raises doubts about the possible benefits of e-cigarettes for people with cancer.

Smokers with cancer who used e-cigarettes along with traditional cigarettes were more dependent on nicotine than those who didn't use the devices, a Memorial Sloan Kettering study found. These patients were also just as likely -- or less likely -- to have quit smoking than patients who didn't use e-cigarettes.

The study, published online Sept. 22 in Cancer, involved almost 1,100 cancer patients who smoked. Between 2012 and 2013, the patients were enrolled in a tobacco treatment program at a comprehensive cancer center.

During that time, e-cigarette use jumped from nearly 11 percent to 38.5 percent -- more than a threefold increase. When the study began, the patients who used e-cigarettes were more dependent on nicotine than those who didn't use them. They also had tried to quit more times in the past and were more likely to be diagnosed with cancers of the lung, head and neck, the study authors found.

During a follow-up, the researchers also found the patients who used e-cigarettes were no less likely than those who didn't to still be smoking.

Although all smokers with cancer should quit, the researchers concluded that questions remain about the long-term safety and effectiveness of e-cigarettes.

"Controlled research is needed to evaluate the potential harms and benefits of e-cigarettes as a potential cessation approach for cancer patients," explained Jamie Ostroff, from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, in journal news release.

"In the meantime, oncologists should advise all smokers to quit smoking traditional combustible cigarettes, encourage use of FDA-approved cessation medications, refer patients for smoking cessation counseling, and provide education about the potential risks and lack of known benefits of long-term e-cigarette use," Ostroff said.

More information

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more about e-cigarettes.

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