Lifestyle may have serious consequences for cancer treatment outcome, which is a fact that both physicians and patients are often not explicitly aware of, thereby unwillingly exposing the patient to possible danger. In certain cases, patient behaviour can lead to potentially life-threatening adverse events, whilst in other cases the clinical benefit of anti-cancer therapy can be diminished. In this review, we focus on the role of certain habits (like cigarette smoking, alcohol use and the use of complementary and alternative medicine) and discuss the effects they may have on anti-cancer medication. Also patient compliance to prescribed anti-cancer drugs is a factor frequently overlooked if treatment does not follow the expectations, which gains importance with the increasingly frequent prescription of oral anti-cancer agents. (c) 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.