People who currently consume alcohol or have done so in the past may have an increased risk of developing cancer, even those who drink moderately. These findings were recently reported in the journal BMJ.
Worldwide, an estimated 3.5% of all cancer deaths are attributable to alcohol. Links have been established between alcohol and several types of cancer, including cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, breast, colon and rectum, and liver.
Researchers in this current study used data from the ongoing European Prospective Investigation Into Cancer (EPIC) study and from the World Health Organization to estimate the percentage of cancers that can be attributed to alcohol intake. Data were used from almost 364,000 participants in eight European countries (France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Greece, Germany, and Denmark). They determined that approximately 10% of all cancers in men and 3% of all cancers in women were related to alcohol use. Cancers that appeared to be related to alcohol consumption included breast, colon, rectal, esophageal, head and neck, and liver cancers.
Another notable finding is that even moderate amounts of alcohol can contribute to cancer risk. Though cancer risk grows with increasing intake, any amount of consumption may elevate risk, according to the researchers. This was explained in a press release from a sponsor of the EPIC study: “The cancer risk increases with every drink, so even moderate amounts of alcohol—such as a small drink each day—increases the risk of these cancers.”
According to the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research, alcohol consumption should be limited to no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. However, as these findings suggest, even a moderate level of alcohol consumption may elevate risk, making no amount entirely safe.
Reference: Schütze M, Boeing H, Pischon T, et al. Alcohol attributable burden of incidence of cancer in eight European countries based on results from prospective cohort study. BMJ. 2011 Apr 7;342:d1584. doi: 10.1136/bmj.d1584.
Tags: Colon Cancer, Esophageal Cancer, General Head and Neck Cancer, Head and Neck Cancer, Health and Wellness, Liver Cancer, News Tips and Features, Rectal Cancer, Screening/Prevention Breast Cancer, Screening/Prevention Colon Cancer, Screening/Prevention Esophageal Cancer, Screening/Prevention Liver Cancer, Screening/Prevention Rectal Cancer