University of Wisconsin–Madison Medical College of Wisconsin

Alcohol Use During Chemotherapy: A Pilot Study

Lin Zhao, MD, MPH; Alexandria Cull Weatherer, MPH; Sarah Kerch, MPH; Tamara LeCaire, MS, PhD; Patrick L. Remington, MD, MPH; Noelle K. LoConte, MD

WMJ. 2022;121(2):157-159

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Introduction: Alcohol use increases the risk for some cancers and can cause complications during treatment. The prevalence of alcohol use during chemotherapy has not been well documented in current literature. This pilot study aimed to examine self-reported alcohol use during chemotherapy among cancer survivors as a basis for future research and interventions.

Methods: We surveyed Wisconsin cancer survivors (N=69) who participated in the ongoing population-based research study, Survey of the Health of Wisconsin (SHOW), on alcohol use during chemotherapy.

Results: Of the cancer survivors who reported receiving chemotherapy, 30.4% (N=21) reported consuming alcohol while receiving chemotherapy, and 38.1% (N=8) of those who drank reported complications. Alcohol use during chemotherapy was higher among older adults (age 65+, rate ratio [RR], 1.9; 95% CI, 0.7-4.9), men (RR, 2.7; 95% CI, 1.3-5.4), former and current smokers (former: RR, 1.6; 95% CI, 0.7-3.8, current: RR, 2.5; 95% CI, 1.1-5.8), and those with non-alcohol-related cancers (RR, 2.0; 95% CI, 0.9-4.2.)

Conclusion: Alcohol use during chemotherapy is common and may increase the risk of complications. More research is needed to better understand this problem and to design effective interventions.

Author Affiliations: Department of Population Health Sciences, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine (UWSMPH), Madison, Wisconsin (Zhao, Remington); Carbone Comprehensive Cancer Center, UWSMPH, Madison, Wisconsin (Cull Weatherer, Kerch, LoConte); Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute, Department of Medicine, UWSMPH, Madison, Wisconsin (LeCaire); Department of Medicine, UWSMPH, Madison, Wisconsin (LoConte).
Corresponding Author: Alexandria Cull Weatherer, MPH, Wisconsin Cancer Collaborative, 610 Walnut St, Madison, WI 53726; phone 608.262.2774; email
Funding/Support: This work was supported by the American Cancer Society (Physician Training Award in Cancer Prevention, #131573 [LZ]); Wisconsin Partnership Program, School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Wisconsin-Madison (LZ); Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (grant 5NU58DP006328-04-00 [ACW, SK, NL]); Wisconsin Department of Health Services (grant 435100-G20-503292-80, 44525 [ACW, SK, NL]); National Cancer Institute University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center Support Grant (P30 CA014520 [ACW, SK, NL]); Department of Population Health Sciences (PR); and Funding for the Survey of the Health of Wisconsin (SHOW) was provided by the Wisconsin Partnership Program PERC Award (233 AAG9971 [TL]).
Financial Disclosures: None declared.
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