Survivors' siblings who report emotional distress are more likely to smoke

Having a brother or sister who had childhood cancer may influence a person’s adult health behaviors. An LTFU Study research team has explored the smoking habits of our sibling participants.

Published: 03/01/17

Man smoking a cigarette

Having a brother or sister who had childhood cancer may influence a person’s adult health behaviors. An LTFU Study research team has explored the smoking habits of our sibling participants.

The team compared information from 1,974 members of the LTFU Study sibling group to survey responses from more than 24,000 members of the general population who participated in the 2007 U.S. National Health Interview Study.

Overall, siblings were equally likely to have ever smoked but were less likely to be current smokers and more likely to have quit smoking than the members of the general population. Siblings who were current smokers were more likely to have a low income, low education level, poor emotional health, and to be heavy drinkers.

Do survivors’ experiences affect sibling behavior?

Siblings were more likely to have ever smoked and also more likely to smoke currently if their brother or sister who survived childhood cancer had ever smoked. Other characteristics of the survivor, including childhood cancer diagnosis, treatment intensity, current health or emotional state, did not influence siblings’ smoking behavior. However, a sibling who reported that he or she experienced personal emotional distress was more likely to be a current smoker.

Dr. David Buchbinder, the leader of the research team, suggested that future studies should identify how emotional health and tobacco use are linked for siblings of childhood cancer survivors. “This new research could lead to support programs to help siblings find less damaging ways to cope with stress,” he said.

What does this mean for you?

Smoking tobacco takes a terrible toll on the body. It is a major risk factor for lung cancer. In fact, it can cause cancer almost anywhere in the body. Smokers are at increased risk of many other life-threatening diseases, too, including heart disease, stroke, and emphysema.

In spite of these facts, many people continue to smoke, and there are many reasons why they do so. Some of the reasons are emotional or linked to difficult life circumstances and events. If you smoke we hope the research presented here provides you with a bit of understanding about one of your possible reasons. We also hope this understanding will help empower you to do the most important thing you can do for your health – quit smoking. We wish you well!

Resources

There are a many resources to help you quit smoking – online, in your community, and through your doctor. A great, comprehensive quit-smoking toolkit is available online at: https://smokefree.gov/

Citation

Buchbinder D, Oeffinger K, Franco-Villalobos C, et al. Tobacco Use Among Siblings of Childhood Cancer Survivors: A Report from the Childhood Cancer SurvivorStudy. Pediatr Blood Cancer. 2016, 63(2), 326-333.