Certain lifestyle factors appear to significantly increase the risk of developing and surviving non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, according to researchers from the Mayo Clinic.

The study, led by James Cerhan, MD, PhD, a cancer epidemiologist at the Mayo Clinic, examined the role of three lifestyle factors on survival after a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. From 1998-2000, the researchers collected information from 1,286 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients who were asked to report their height and weight the year before their diagnosis. In addition, half of the participants were also asked information about use of alcohol and smoking history.

The results of the study revealed that non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients with a 20-year or greater history of smoking had a 76% higher risk of death when compared to those who had never smoked. However, Dr. Cerhan did report that patients who had quit smoking 20 years or more before diagnosis had no higher risk of death than patients who had never smoked.

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Secondly, patients who consumed more than 43g of alcohol per week had a 55% higher risk of death compared to nondrinkers. Based on their findings, the researchers did suggest that alcohol may have different impacts on developing versus surviving non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Lastly, obese patients (defined as having a body mass index ≥30) had a 32% higher risk of death compared to patients with normal weight for their height.

“This now raises the hypothesis that changing these behaviors after diagnosis might improve survival, but this needs to be tested in a clinical study,” said Dr. Cerhan. “In the meantime, patients in active therapy should discuss any lifestyle changes with their health care provider. Long-term survivors outside of therapy should consider the general public health guidelines that recommend smoking cessation, moderate or no alcohol use, and attaining a healthy weight.”

The findings are published in Cancer (2010 March 30 [Epub ahead of print]).