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Alcoholism & Addiction

Study Shows Alcohol Consumption Increases Risk of Dying for Some Cancer Patients

Smoking cigarettes and consuming alcohol can have a wide array of consequences for the user, especially if he or she receives a head and neck cancer diagnosis. The activities leading up to that diagnosis can greatly predict the risk of future death.

A recent post in Science Daily reveals the results of a new study conducted by researcher Susan T. Mayne, Ph.D., a professor of epidemiology at the Yale Schools of Public Health and Medicine, and the associate director of the Yale Comprehensive Cancer Center.

"Most cancer survivors are counseled to quit smoking; despite this, many still smoke. In our study, 21 percent continued to smoke even after their cancer diagnosis, increasing their risk of death," said Dr. Mayne. "Similarly, we found that continued drinking increases the risk of death."

As a result of these findings, Dr. Mayne advises those who have survived head and neck cancer to quit smoking cigarettes and drinking alcoholic beverages to increase their odds of longer survival.

To conduct this study, Dr. Mayne and her colleagues evaluated the habits of 264 recent survivors of early stage head and neck cancer before and after their diagnosis. Smoking and drinking histories were collected to evaluate if the habits of these patients had an affect on the risk of dying in subsequent years. After more than four years of follow-up, 62 patients died.

According to Dr. Mayne, those patients who continued to smoke were roughly two times as likely to die during the follow-up, compared to those who did not smoke after diagnosis. Those who continued to drink after diagnosis were approximately three times as likely to die during the follow-up.

"We expected to see an adverse effect of continued smoking; I was really not sure what we would find for continued drinking," she said. "The data from our study indicated that continued drinking should be discouraged in head and neck cancer survivors. Patients need assistance with both tobacco and alcohol cessation."
 

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