Increasing The Odds For Cancer Survival

According to a recent Science Daily article, Head and Neck Cancer patients who smoked, drank, did not eat enough fruit and/or did not exercise at the time do diagnosis had poorer survival outcomes than their clean-living counterparts.

This is the result of a new study conducted by the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The study’s author Sonia Duffy, Ph.D., R.N., associate professor of nursing at the U.M. School of Nursing, research assistant professor of otolaryngology at the U-M Medical School, and research scientist at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System says, "While there has been a recent emphasis on biomarkers and genes that might be linked to cancer survival, the health habits a person has at diagnosis play a major role in his or her survival. The result of this research appears online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Each of the four factors was independently linked to a patient’s survival.

504 head and neck cancer patients were surveyed for the study. They were asked about 5 health behaviors: smoking, drinking, diet, exercise and sleep. They were surveyed every three months during the first two years, and then every year from then on.

The results showed that smoking was the largest predictor of survival odds. In fact present smokers have the shortest survival.

Excessive alcohol intake and low fruit consumption were also connected with worse survival. Interestingly, vegetable intake was not. Lack of exercise also lowers survival.

"Health behaviors are only sporadically addressed in busy oncology clinics where the major focus is on surgery, chemotherapy or radiation. Addressing health behaviors may enhance the survival advantage offered by these treatments," says Duffy.

However, people’s health behaviors are linked to each other – like how smokers are also heavy drinkers – and this makes it difficult to address issues. As Duffy says, "It’s not enough to refer someone to a smoking cessation program if alcohol is a major underlying problem."

Earlier studies have linked several of these health behaviors to cancer prevention.

The study also found that 1/3 of the patients ate less than four servings of fruit per month, whereas the RDA is two servings of fruit per day.

Duffy notes that "Eating fruits and vegetables, not smoking and drinking in moderation can have a big impact on a person’s risk of getting cancer in the first place. Now it appears that these factors also impact survival after diagnosis."

The researchers will look into over time behavior changes to find out if changing health habits when a person is already diagnosed can affect survival.

This, in turn, will help determine what kind of interventions or services should be offered to patients.

Statistics: According to the American Cancer Society 35,310 Americans will be diagnosed with head and neck cancers this year. 7,590 will die from the disease.

Source: Science Daily