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Childhood Cancer Survivors and Alcohol Consumption

Addiction; ePub 2018 Sep 8; Brinkman, et al

Drinking initiation during adolescence is associated with modest increased risk for memory impairment and emotional distress in adult survivors of childhood cancer, according to a recent study. Researchers used data from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study (CCSS), a 26‐center study of >5-year survivors of childhood cancer diagnosed at <21 years between 1970 and 1986 in the US and Canada. 4,484 adult survivors of childhood cancer (mean [SD] age at evaluation = 34.8 [6.1] years; time from diagnosis = 24.8 [4.4] years) and 1,706 sibling controls completed surveys reporting on alcohol use, neurocognitive impairment, and emotional distress. They found:

  • After adjustment for childhood cancer treatment exposures, including cranial radiation therapy, drinking initiation prior to age 18 years was associated with 30% increased risk of subsequent memory problems (Risk Ratio [RR]=1.3).
  • Younger age at drinking initiation was associated with future risk of depression (RR=1.3), anxiety (RR=1.6), and somatization (RR=1.2).
  • Persistent heavy/risky drinking was associated with 80% increased risk of persistent psychological distress (RR=1.8).


Brinkman TM, Lown EA, Li C, et al. Alcohol consumption behaviors and neurocognitive dysfunction and emotional distress in adult survivors of childhood cancer: A report from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. [Published online ahead of print September 8, 2018]. Addiction. doi:10.1111/add.14439.