April 11, 2008 / 5:28 PM / 11 years ago

Smoking, drinking imperil lymphoma survival

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Smoking and moderate-to-high alcohol consumption negatively affect the survival of people with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, dubbed NHL, a European study shows.

“Tobacco and alcohol habits are risk factors for a wide range of diseases,” Dr. Renato Talamini said in an interview with Reuters Health. “NHL patients who smoked tobacco and/or drank alcoholic beverages could be more vulnerable to the complications and side effects of cancer treatments,” he noted.

“Moreover,” continued Talamini, who led the study, “concomitant diseases due to tobacco and alcohol consumption may increase the probability of treatment toxicity, and thus, may represent an obstacle to adequate chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy.”

Talamini, at the National Cancer Institute in Aviano, Italy, and colleagues evaluated the survival rates of 268 NHL patients seen there over a 20 year period and who were followed for an average of 5 years.

During follow-up, 158 patients died, the team reports in the International Journal of Cancer.

Patients who smoked at least 20 cigarettes per day had a 70 percent higher risk of dying than those who never smoked. Compared with patients who consumed fewer than two drinks per day, those who consumed four or more drinks per day also had a 69 percent higher risk of death.

When the researchers combined alcohol and smoking, they found no excess deaths among subjects who drank fewer than four drinks per day. However, the risk of dying was almost doubled among current or former smokers who consumed four or more drinks per day.

The results should strongly encourage patients with NHL “to stop smoking and lower alcohol consumption in order to obtain a general health benefit and improvements in the course of treatment,” Talamini advised.

The next step will be to see if smoking cessation or reducing alcohol consumption improves survival or treatment responses in these patients. “In pursuit of this, we will follow-up the same cohort,” he added.

SOURCE: International Journal of Cancer, April 2008.

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