Quitting Smoking and Drinking May Decrease Depression Risk After Gastric Cancer Surgery

Patients with gastric cancer who quit smoking and/or drinking after undergoing a gastrectomy tended to have a decreased risk of depression, research showed.

Patients with gastric cancer who underwent gastrectomy (surgical removal of all or part of the stomach) had a decreased risk of depression after they stopped smoking or drinking alcohol, according to findings from a Korean study that were presented at 2023 ASCO Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium.

The researchers analyzed self-reported data from 18,902 patients who had a gastrectomy between 2007 and 2010. Data was collected from up to two years before surgery and up to two years after.

Within this group, 2,302 (12.19%) developed depression.

“Although depression is associated with poor treatment outcomes and lower quality of life in cancer patients, little is known about whether lifestyle modifications could help prevent depression in these patients,” the researchers wrote, highlighting the importance of the study. “This study aimed to identify the effect of lifestyle modifications such as smoking cessation, alcohol abstinence, and starting exercise on depression development in gastric cancer patients who underwent gastrectomy.”

Findings showed that smoking cessation reduced the risk of depression by 23%, and abstaining from alcohol use reduced the risk by 21%. Starting an exercise regimen after diagnosis and surgery, however, was not found to be associated with a decreased risk of depression.

Smoking cessation can have other health benefits, too, as smoking could increase recurrence risk for other cancers, and tobacco smoke — among other toxins — is strongly related with developing cancer.

Similarly, prior research and expert opinion has also supported that limiting alcohol can, “make a huge difference to (patients’) physical and mental health.” As such, the American Cancer Society recommends that patients with cancer abstain from consuming alcohol, but if they do choose to drink, to limit their intake to no more than two drinks per day for men and one per day for women.

The study researchers concluded, “Smoking cessation and alcohol abstinence can reduce the risk of depression in gastric cancer patients who undergo gastrectomy.”

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