People who are infected with human immunodeficiency virus and who smoke are far more likely to die from lung cancer than HIV, a new study says. Aside from bad breath, Smoking reduces life expectancy among people living with HIV — and undergoing antiretroviral therapy to keep their disease at bay — more than HIV itself, it added.
The findings are of particular concern because smoking is so common among people with HIV. Those diagnosed with HIV are living longer because of the increasingly effective antiviral medications that have been developed in the last 10 years. But prevention from lung cancer has not developed at a similar rate.
“Smoking rates are extraordinarily high among people with HIV, and both smoking and HIV increase the risk of lung cancer.”
Why Smokers are Likely to Die from lung cancer than from AIDS
Cigarettes contain over 4,000 chemicals, around 50 of which cause cancer. These include carbon monoxide, which reduces the oxygen levels in your blood so that not enough oxygen is delivered to the organs and your energy levels drop.
Smokers become addicted to the nicotine in cigarettes, which is why you experience cravings and withdrawal symptoms when you stop smoking.
Smoking affects your blood pressure, fertility, your skin, teeth and lungs, and increases your risk of cancer, heart disease and stroke.
“Having HIV and using tobacco may together accelerate the development of lung cancer,” warned the report in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine.
“Smoking and HIV are a particularly bad combination when it comes to lung cancer,” said lead author Krishna Reddy, a doctor at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
Almost 25 percent of people who adhere well to anti-HIV medications but continue to smoke will die from lung cancer, said the findings.
People with HIV who take antiviral drugs and also smoke cigarettes are more than Ten times more likely to die from lung cancer than from HIV/AIDS, the Study added. People with HIV are living longer now thanks to antiviral medications, but smoking and HIV together put them at risk of developing lung cancer at a rate even higher than that among smokers not infected with HIV.
But there is hope for those who manage to quit.
Among smokers who quit at age 40, only about six percent will die of lung cancer, according to the study, which is based on projections using a computer model.
“Quitting smoking is one of the most important things that people with HIV can do to improve their health and live longer.” said co-author Travis Baggett, also of Massachusetts General Hospital. Quitting will not only reduce their risk of lung cancer but also decrease their risks of many other diseases, such as heart attack, stroke, and emphysema.’
‘Now is the time for action. Smoking cessation programs should be integrated into HIV care, just like antiviral therapy.’
The most common symptoms of lung cancer are:
1. A cough that does not go away or gets worse.
2. Coughing up blood or rust-colored sputum (spit or phlegm)
3. Chest pain that is often worse with deep breathing, coughing, or laughing.
5. Weight loss and loss of appetite.
6. Shortness of breath.
7. Feeling tired or weak.
Researchers found that 25 percent of people who consistently take their HIV medication but smoke are likely to die of lung cancer. More than 40 percent of those with the viral disease smoke cigarettes. Even if someone didn’t take their medication all the time and still smoked was more likely to get lung cancer than die from HIV.
Experts recommend doctors to focus on helping their patients stop smoking as a treatment option when dealing with HIV.
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