What if someone is already diagnosed with cancer, but continues to drink alcohol? What about cancer survivors who drink alcohol?

Between one-in-three and one-in-two patients who have been diagnosed with a cancer of the respiratory/digestive systems continue to drink alcohol. A study involving nearly 210,000 cancer survivors found that high alcohol consumers had an 8% greater chance of death and 17% greater risk for cancer recurrence compared to those who rarely or never drank alcohol.

People who consume alcohol after a diagnosis of respiratory/digestive cancer are at increased risk of developing additional cancers. Stopping alcohol consumption can reduce this risk.

Women who have estrogen receptor positive breast cancer who consume more than 7 drinks per week have a 90% greater risk of developing an additional breast cancer compared to non-drinkers. Patients with breast cancer who drink more than 7 drinks per week also develop other new cancers, including colorectal cancer. Moderate or heavy levels of drinking also increases the risk of breast cancer recurrence and death.

Abusing alcohol and excessive drinking can reduce the success of cancer treatments and can complicate the patient’s health with longer stays in the hospital, more surgeries, delayed recovery, greater risk of death and higher healthcare costs. The patient’s response to treatment may be further complicated by nutritional deficiencies, lowered immunity and heart problems that can arise due to alcohol abuse.

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