All of Us Data Highlights Risky Drinking Among Cancer Survivors

Last Reviewed: November 16, 2023
Most cancer survivors drink alcohol. Nearly half of those drink often, heavily, or both. Reference: Shi, M.; Luo, C.; Oduyale, O.K.; Zong, X.; LoConte, N.K.; & Cao, Y. (2023). Alcohol consumption among adults with a cancer diagnosis in the All of Us Research Program. JAMA Network Open, 6(8):e2328328. A pie chart, comprising dozens of illustrated people, with one wedge slightly over one half of the chart and the other slightly more than one third of the chart. Logo of the All of Us Research Program.

Key points

  • Health experts advise cancer survivors not to drink alcohol because of risks to their health.
  • A new study shows most All of Us cancer survivors drink alcohol, even during treatment.
  • Many drink often, heavily, or both.
  • There is an immediate need to find ways to help cancer survivors drink less alcohol.  

There are more than 18 million cancer survivors living in the United States. Health care providers want to understand how to help cancer survivors live a healthy life for as long as possible.

Cancer experts advise cancer survivors not to drink alcoholThis is because drinking increases risks of:

  • Cancer treatments not working as well
  • Cancer coming back
  • Getting a new type of cancer

In a new study of survey data shared by All of Us cancer survivors, researchers learned that most cancer survivors drink alcohol, including during treatment.

Of those who drink, many have risky drinking habits because they drink often, heavily, or both.

This study, which was funded in part by the National Institutes of Health, was published in JAMA Network Open.*

Risky Drinking Common, Even During Treatment

For this study, researchers looked at electronic health record data and responses to All of Us surveys, including the Lifestyle survey.

The researchers counted more than 15,000 All of Us participants who reported a cancer diagnosis. Of these, nearly 4 of 5 said they currently drink alcohol.

When the researchers looked at how often and how much cancer survivors drank alcohol, they found:

  • Nearly half (2 in 5) reported hazardous drinking, meaning they drank often, heavily, or both.
  • About 1 in 4 reported binge drinking (having six or more drinks at one time).

These risky drinking habits were most common in men, people younger than 50, and people who had ever smoked cigarettes. Current smokers diagnosed with cancer before age 18 were most likely to engage in risky drinking, including frequent hazardous drinking and binge drinking.

What Is Hazardous Drinking?

One serving of alcohol equals one bottle of beer (12 ounces), a glass (8 ounces) of malt liquor, a glass (5 ounces) of wine, or a shot (1.5 ounces) of liquor.

In the study, hazardous drinking included:

  • Drinking three or four drinks a day two to three times a week
  • Drinking five or six drinks at a time two to four times a month
  • Drinking four or more times a week

An Opportunity for Resources and Support

Because of these findings, study researchers think cancer survivors need more resources and guidance to help them drink less alcohol.

Thanks to All of Us data, these results may lead to more effective ways to help improve the lives of cancer survivors in the United States.

*Updates to align this publication with All of Us publication policies are pending. All of Us will add a link to the updated publication once it becomes available.

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