Alcohol Consumption Behaviors Among Patients Diagnosed With Cancer

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In a study from the National Institutes of Health All of Us Research Program reported in JAMA Network Open, Shi et al found that alcohol consumption and risky drinking behaviors were common among patients with a cancer diagnosis, including patients currently receiving treatment for their cancer.

Study Details

The study involved electronic health record data from the research program spanning from May 2018 to January 2022. The study population consisted of 15,199 cancer survivors, including 1,839 who underwent treatment for cancer within 1 year prior to the study baseline survey. The outcome measures were prevalence of current drinking and risky drinking behaviors, including exceeding moderate drinking (more than two drinks on a typical drinking day), binge drinking (six or more drinks on one occasion), and hazardous drinking (Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test-Consumption [AUDIT-C] score of ≥ 3 for women and ≥ 4 for men).

Key Findings

Overall, 11,815 cancer survivors (77.7%) were current drinkers. Among these, 1,541 (13.0%) exceeded moderate drinking; 2,812 (23.8%) reported binge drinking; and 4,527 (38.3%) met the criteria for hazardous drinking.

In multivariate analysis, survivors significantly more likely to exceed moderate drinking were those aged < 65 years (odds ratios [ORs] = 2.90, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 2.41–3.48 for age < 50 years, and 1.84, 95% CI = 1.58–2.15 for age 50 to 64 years), men (OR = 1.84, 95% CI = 1.58–2.15), those of Hispanic ethnicity (OR = 1.31, 95% CI = 1.04–1.64), those who received a cancer diagnosis before age 18 years (OR = 1.52, 95% CI = 1.04–2.24), and former (OR = 2.46, 95% CI = 2.16–2.79) and current smokers (OR = 4.14, 95% CI = 3.40–5.04). These same groups were significantly more likely to engage in binge drinking: odds ratios were 4.46 (95% CI = 3.85–5.15) among those aged < 50 years and 2.15 (95% CI = 1.90–2.43) among those aged 50 to 64 years, 2.10 (95% CI = 1.89–2.34) for men, 1.31 (95% CI = 1.09–1.58) for those of Hispanic ethnicity, 1.71 (95% CI = 1.24–2.35) for those diagnosed at age < 18 years, and 1.69 (95% CI = 1.53–1.87) for former and 2.27 (95% CI = 1.91–2.71) for current smokers.

Significantly increased likelihood of engaging in hazardous drinking was identified for those who had been diagnosed before age 18 years (OR = 1.52, 95% CI = 1.11–2.08) and for former (OR = 1.83, 95% CI = 1.68–1.99) and current smokers (OR = 2.13, 95% CI = 1.79–2.53).

Among the 1,839 patients who received treatment for cancer within 1 year prior to the survey, 1,405 (76.4%) were current drinkers; among these, 170 (12.1%) exceeded moderate drinking, 329 (23.4%) reported binge drinking, and 540 (38.4%) engaged in hazardous drinking, with similar prevalences seen across types of cancer treatment received.

The investigators concluded, “This cross-sectional study of a diverse U.S. cohort suggests that alcohol consumption and risky drinking behaviors were common among cancer survivors, even among individuals receiving treatment. Given the adverse treatment and oncologic outcomes associated with alcohol consumption, additional research and implementation studies are critical in addressing this emerging concern among cancer survivors.”

Yin Cao, ScD, MPH, of the Division of Public Health Sciences, Department of Surgery, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, is the corresponding author for the JAMA Network Open article.

Disclosure: The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health. For full disclosures of the study authors, visit

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