Smoking and Drinking (Still)
Ordinarily, I would have passed right over this report from Medicalxpress.com re a new Australian study that suggests that women, after breast cancer, do not alter their smoking and drinking habits. Reportedly, they are willing to make other lifestyle changes, but not this one. Given my posts of the past two days, this seems a nice counterpoint.
Let me first say that I find the tone of this report a bit critical or reproachful. It has a "Father knows best" quality that makes me bristle. I may well be super sensitive to such feelings, and you may not react the same way. I work sometimes with lung cancer patients with a long smoking history (as well as lung cancer patients who have never smoked, and that is another whole story). Most try to stop smoking immediately after diagnosis--even though they are aware this is a perfect example of closing the barn door after the horse's escape. It still helps them feel some sense of control and positive contribution to their health. Some patients, however, basically say "Screw this. I have few pleasures left to me, and smoking is one of them. The damage is done, and I am not going to stop." In all honesty, I always feel a slightly reluctant respect for them. Thumbing one's nose at the fates and making personal choices is, to me, to be admired.
It also seems a bit odd to lump smoking and moderate/social drinking into the same "bad for you" bin. Pretty much everyone knows that smoking is not healthy, but there are plenty of contradictions about moderate alcohol use, and all the data is quite new.
At any rate, here is the story:
Women with breast cancer continue to smoke, drink
Associate Professor Robin Bell, Deputy Director of the Women's Health Group at Monash University led the research, published in the journal Supportive Care in Cancer.
The longitudinal study surveyed 1500 Victorian women about their smoking and drinking habits on two occasions. The first time was between 2004 and 2006, when women were asked about smoking and drinking at the time of their breast cancer diagnosis. The participants were surveyed again two years later.
Findings showed that two out of three women who were smokers when their breast cancer was diagnosed continued to smoke cigarettes.
Alcohol consumption is a known risk factor for breast cancer and women already diagnosed with breast cancer are at risk of both recurrence and development of another primary breast cancer. However, one in 12 study participants continued to drink more than four drinks per occasion, at least once a week.
Australian Government guidelines recommend drinking no more than two drinks per day.
Professor Bell said more support was needed for women with breast cancer to adopt evidence based changes for a healthier lifestyle.
"We know that around the time of diagnosis of serious disease people make changes to their lifestyle. In this study about one-third of women made some change to their diet and one-third to their physical activity.
"However, not all the changes being made are based on solid evidence. For example, some women eliminate dairy products, which is not evidence based.
"In contrast, there is no argument that stopping smoking and choosing to moderate alcohol intake are good things to do. However, the women who would benefit most from making these lifestyle changes seem to choose not to, or aren't getting help to do so," Professor Bell said.
"The outlook for women diagnosed with breast cancer continues to improve. Overall, five-year survival for women diagnosed is nearly 90 per cent, and even higher for women diagnosed in the early stages of the disease,
"Women with breast cancer should be looking to optimize their health for the years beyond their diagnosis. This includes making healthy life choices that will prevent the development of a new breast cancer or a recurrence of past disease."