Background: Smoking at the time of surgical treatment for lung cancer increases the risk for perioperative morbidity and mortality. The prevalence of persistent smoking in the postoperative period and its association with long-term oncologic outcomes are poorly described. Research Question: What is the relationship between persistent smoking and long-term outcomes in early-stage lung cancer after surgical treatment? Study Design and Methods: We performed a retrospective cohort study using a uniquely compiled Veterans Health Administration dataset of patients with clinical stage I non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) undergoing surgical treatment between 2006 and 2016. We defined persistent smoking as individuals who continued smoking 1 year after surgery and characterized the relationship between persistent smoking and disease-free survival and overall survival. Results: This study included 7,489 patients undergoing surgical treatment for clinical stage I NSCLC. Of 4,562 patients (60.9%) who were smoking at the time of surgery, 2,648 patients (58.0%) continued to smoke at 1 year after surgery. Among 2,927 patients (39.1%) who were not smoking at the time of surgical treatment, 573 (19.6%) relapsed and were smoking at 1 year after surgery. Persistent smoking at 1 year after surgery was associated with significantly shorter overall survival (adjusted hazard ration [aHR], 1.291; 95% CI, 1.197-1.392; P < .001). However, persistent smoking was not associated with inferior disease-free survival (aHR, 0.989; 95% CI, 0.884-1.106; P = .84). Interpretation: Persistent smoking after surgery for stage I NSCLC is common and is associated with inferior overall survival. Providers should continue to assess smoking habits in the postoperative period given its disproportionate impact on long-term outcomes after potentially curative treatment for early-stage lung cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1687-1696
Number of pages10
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2022


  • cigarettes
  • non-small cell lung cancer
  • smoking
  • thoracic surgery


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