Introduction: The five-year survival rates for young adult cancers continue to increase. Nonetheless, these young adult survivors may experience health complications or physical late effects that contribute to negative lifestyle behaviors potentiating the use of gateway drugs (e.g. alcohol and cigarettes). Examination of these negative behaviors during emerging adulthood (i.e., ages 18–24) may be particularly critical, as this developmental period is characterized by significant change, instability, identity exploration, and experimentation. In the present study, we examine the use of cigarettes and risky alcohol consumption among U.S. young adult cancer survivors.

Methods: We analyzed data on 39,433 U.S. young adults age 18–24 participating in the 1997–2009 National Health Interview Survey, who reported on their cigarette use and alcohol consumption, and socio-demographic characteristics.

Results: Among all youth, youth workers are almost twice as likely to smoke cigarettes when compared to their unemployed peers and Whites were more likely to engage in these negative behaviors when compared to their Black peers. There was no significant difference in alcohol or cigarette use by cancer history among young people. Approximately 35% of young cancer survivors were smokers and 70% current drinkers. Analyses did not reveal any significant reports of risky drinking.

Conclusions: Periodic clinical assessments for substance use among cancer survivors is important, particularly during the transition from late adolescence to emerging adulthood when baseline rates are relatively high compared to other ages. Research on processes involved in a young cancer survivors’ decisions to use substances will provide better insight regarding how best to intervene and who to include in educational interventions.

Citation Information: Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2011;20(10 Suppl):A7.