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Volume 20, Number 4, 2015

Smoking during radiotherapy for head and neck cancer and acute mucosal reaction

Beata Szeszko, Karolina Osowiecka, Monika Rucińska, Ewa Wasilewska-Teśluk, Krzysztof Gliński, Lucyna Kępka



We compared the incidence of RTOG/EORTC grade III and higher acute mucositis in patients with head and neck cancer who continued to smoke during radiotherapy with those who quit smoking.


There are conflicting data on the relationship between smoking during radiotherapy and the severity of acute mucosal reaction. More studies dealing with this issue are needed.

Materials and methods

Among 136 patients receiving curative radio(chemo)therapy, 37 (27%) declared that they had not quit smoking during radiotherapy. The intensity of mucositis was scored daily by a nurse and weekly by a physician using the RTOG/EORTC scale. The main end-point of the study was the highest observed RTOG/EORTC grade of mucositis.


Patients who smoked during radiotherapy (smokers) were younger than their counterparts who quit smoking (non-smokers), p = 0.06. There were no other differences in the baseline characteristics between smokers and non-smokers. Grade III/IV acute mucositis was observed in 43.5% of all patients. The percentage of patients with grade III/IV acute mucositis was similar in smokers and non-smokers (46% vs. 42%, p = 0.71). Nine patients (smokers [13.5%]; non-smokers [4%], p = 0.05) required prolonged hospitalization to heal mucositis.


In the whole group, smoking during radiotherapy was not related to acute mucosal toxicity evaluated as the rate of the highest observed grade of mucositis.

Signature: Rep Pract Oncol Radiother, 2015; 20(4) : 299-304

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