Impact of a Tobacco Treatment Program on Abstinence and Survival Rates Among Current Smokers With Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Background: Approximately one quarter of head and neck cancer (HNC) patients smoke cigarettes at the time of diagnosis. Despite HNC guideline recommendations to treat tobacco dependence, the effectiveness of treatment in this population is poorly described.

Methods: This retrospective cohort review evaluated 117 current smokers with p16-negative mucosal head and neck squamous cell carcinoma prospectively enrolled in a tobacco treatment program. Seven-day point prevalence tobacco abstinence rates at 9 months and survival outcomes were compared among abstinent and nonabstinent groups.

Results: Median follow-up among survivors was 62.4 months. Forty percent of patients were abstinent at 9 months according to intention-to-treat analysis. After adjustment for age, comorbidity and site, abstinent stage I to II patients had a decreased risk of death compared to smoking stage I to II patients (HR 0.15, 95% CI 0.03-0.82).

Conclusions: High cohort abstinence rates and favorable survival among abstinent patients with early-stage HNC confirm the importance of tobacco dependence treatment in this population.

Keywords: abstinence; cigarettes; head and neck cancer; mucosal squamous cell carcinoma; outcomes; smoking; survival; tobacco; tobacco dependence; tobacco treatment.