Dr. Cerhan notes that the association between drinking and survival is the opposite of what was found for the development of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. There, alcohol use appears to lower risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. "We don't know why this is the case, but suggests alcohol may have different impacts on developing versus surviving non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and this warrants further research," he says.
Of the 1,189 who provided usable data about their height and weight, about 5 percent were underweight, 31 percent were normal weight, 39 percent were overweight, and 26 percent were classified as obese. After adjusting for clinical and demographic factors, obese patients had a 32 percent higher risk of death compared to normal weight patients; the risk of death for overweight patients was similar to that for normal weight patients.
Even given these results for lifestyle factors, the strongest predictors of outcome in non-Hodgkin's lymphoma remain age and clinical measures that include issues such as cancer stage, the number of lymph nodes that are affected, and certain biochemical measurements, Dr. Cerhan says.
The study had limitations, such as the original data was designed to look at risk of developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and, in this study, those questionnaires were used to evaluate the impact of the same factors on survival. "This raises the concern that people may have changed their behaviors after diagnosis, and we would have missed these changes," Dr. Cerhan says. However, he notes that such a change would most likely bias the study to finding no association with the lifestyle factors.
"Most importantly, we didn't answer the question of whether changing
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