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'Surprising' Number of Cancer Survivors Use Alcohol

Updated: Sep 20, 2020

— Clinicians urged to step up alcohol screening at regular intervals, intervention

More than half of cancer survivors in the U.S. are drinking alcohol, with some going beyond recommended limits and others actually binge drinking, researchers found.

Data from the 2000-2017 National Health Interview Survey on alcohol use and drinking patterns in 34,080 adults with a diagnosis of cancer showed that 56.5% reported using alcohol, according to the study by Nina N. Sanford, MD, of UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, and colleagues.

This included 34.9% of cancer patients who said their alcohol consumption exceeded moderate drinking guidelines and 21.0% who admitted to binge drinking, the authors wrote in the Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN).

The study showed that although white race was associated with higher odds of any drinking among cancer survivors, Alaska Natives/American Indians had the highest odds of exceeding moderate drinking levels and engaging in binge drinking. The risk for drinking alcohol at all levels increased with younger age, current or former smoking history, and participation in the more recent survey period.

The study included 6,313 cancer survivors age 50 and younger, and the risks for binge drinking increased over time. Conversely, the risks for drinking or exceeding moderate drinking guidelines did not increase, the researchers said.

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