Background: Although alcohol drinking is an established risk factor of head and neck cancer (HNC), less is known about its role in the prognosis of HNC. The current study investigated the association between pretreatment alcohol consumption and the overall survival (OS) of HNC patients. Methods: Cox proportional hazards models were performed to evaluate the association between prediagnosis alcohol drinking and the OS of HNC patients. In addition, the influence of the polymorphisms of two ethanol-metabolizing genes, ADH1B and ALDH2, on this relationship was also evaluated. Results: The results showed a significant positive dose-response relationship between prediagnosis alcohol use and worse OS of HNC patients. This association was more significant for oropharyngeal cancer, hypopharyngeal cancer, and laryngeal cancer than for oral cancer. The association between alcohol use and the poorer OS of HNC patients was mainly through its association with a higher stage of HNC at diagnosis. The worst OS associated with alcohol use was observed among HNC patients with the fast ADH1B and the slow/ nonfunctional ALDH2 genotype combination. Conclusions: Our analysis showed a significant positive dose-response relationship between prediagnosis alcohol use and a worse OS of HNC. This association was mainly due to the higher stage of HNC among alcohol drinkers. In addition, the polymorphisms of the ethanol-metabolizing genes, ADH1B and ALDH2, modified the relationship between prediagnosis alcohol use and the OS of HNC patients. Impact: Prediagnosis alcohol use may be a prognostic indicator of HNC.
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