Even moderate drinking associated with higher cancer risk

(Ivanhoe Newswire) - Women who consume even one alcoholic drink a day, whether it's wine, beer or liquor, may be more likely to develop cancer.

British researchers examined the association of alcohol consumption and cancer incidence in the Million Women Study, which included nearly 1.3 million middle-aged women in the United Kingdom.

Researchers found the risk of any type of cancer increased with increasing alcohol consumption, as did the risk for some specific types of cancer, including breast, rectal and liver cancers. Women who also smoked had an increased risk of cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx, esophagus and larynx. In fact, researchers said low to moderate alcohol consumption may account for nearly 13 percent of the cancers of the breast, liver, rectum and upper aero-digestive tract combined.

Each additional alcoholic drink regularly consumed per day was associated with 11 additional breast cancers per 1,000 women up to age 75; one additional cancer of the oral cavity and pharynx; one additional cancer of the rectum; and an increase of 0.7 each for esophageal, laryngeal and liver cancers.

"Although the magnitude of the excess absolute risk associated with one additional drink per day may appear small for some cancer sites, the high prevalence of moderate alcohol drinking among women in many populations means that the proportion of cancers attributable to alcohol is an important public health issue," the authors said.

In an accompanying editorial, researchers from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, said the results of this study should make every woman reconsider her drinking habits.

"From a standpoint of cancer risk, the message of this report could not be clearer," they wrote. "There is no level of alcohol consumption that can be considered safe."

SOURCE: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 2009;101: 296-305, 282-283

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