The disproportionate adverse health impact from smoking on African Americans is striking. Although oncology nurses are well aware of tobacco’s carcinogenic effects, they also need to understand the implications for comorbid conditions they may see in smokers with cancer. A recent study, through the National Institutes of Health (NIH), confirmed that African Americans have a 2.5 times higher incident of smoking-related strokes than those who never smoke.

Researchers evaluated 781 past smokers, 546 current smokers, and 3,083 never smokers who were enrolled in the Jackson Heart Study, the largest study of cardiovascular disease in African Americans. A total of 5.2% of past smokers, 6.6% of those smoking up to 19 cigarettes a day, and 7.2% of those smoking more than 20 cigarettes a day experienced stroke, compared to 3.4% of never smokers.

“After accounting for multiple risk factors for stroke, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, high ‘bad’ cholesterol levels, and older age, researchers calculated that current smokers carried a risk for stroke that was more than double the risk for never smokers,” researchers reported. “The risk nearly tripled for those smoking 20 or more cigarettes each day. But past smokers showed an almost identical risk as never smokers.”

Because patients with cancer are also at an increased risk for stroke related to their tumors, monitoring African American smokers for cardiovascular effects and recommending interventions to reduce risk, including smoking cessation strategies, are crucial oncology nursing efforts.

ONS recognizes tobacco control and smoking cessation as health policy priorities and advocates for stronger public health legislation limiting the marketing, sales, and distribution of these products. Tune into the Oncology Nursing Podcast to hear how the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Tobacco Products is combating tobacco and its effect on cancer care, and earn free nursing continuing professional development.