People living with HIV who adhere to antiretroviral therapy but smoke tobacco cigarettes are more likely to die from lung cancer than from AIDS, a study led by an Indian-origin researcher has revealed. The findings showed that overall people with HIV who take antiviral medicines but who also smoke are six to 13 times more likely to die from lung cancer than from HIV/AIDS, depending on the intensity of smoking and their sex.
“Smoking and HIV are a particularly bad combination when it comes to lung cancer,” said lead author Krishna Reddy, MD, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). “Lung cancer is now one of the leading killers of people with HIV, but most of these deaths can be prevented,” added Rochelle Walensky, Professor at Harvard Medical School.
Among men who continued to be heavy smokers, an estimated 29 per cent would die of lung cancer by age 80, as would 23 per cent of moderate smokers and 19 per cent of light smokers. For women who continued to be heavy smokers, an estimated 29 per cent would die of lung cancer by age 80, as would 21 per cent of moderate smokers and 17 per cent of light smokers.
“The data tell us that now is the time for action: smoking cessation programmes should be integrated into HIV care just like antiviral therapy,” Reddy said in the paper published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. However, among those who managed to quit smoking at age 40, only about six per cent die of lung cancer.
“Quitting smoking is one of the most important things that people with HIV can do to improve their health and live longer,” suggested Travis Baggett, Assistant Professor at the Harvard Medical School. Besides reducing the risk of lung cancer, quitting will also decrease their risk of other diseases such as heart attack, stroke and emphysema, the researchers said.