Published On: Mon, Jul 25th, 2016

Drink alcohol? At risk for seven types of cancer

alcohol-glassNew research has pretty much given seven reasons not to drink alcohol. According to a new review, there is now strong evidence that alcohol causes seven forms of cancer, and people consuming even low to moderate amounts are at risk.

The findings of the study indicate that there is now more than simply a link or statistical association between alcohol and cancer that could be explained by something else.

According to Jennie Connor, of the preventive and social medicine department at Otago University in New Zealand, there is now enough credible evidence to say conclusively that drinking is a direct cause of the disease.

“There is strong evidence that alcohol causes cancer at seven sites in the body and probably others,” Connor said.

“Even without complete knowledge of biological mechanisms [of how alcohol causes cancer], the epidemiological evidence can support the judgment that alcohol causes cancer of the oropharynx, larynx, oesophagus, liver, colon, rectum and breast.”

Mounting evidence suggested that alcohol was also likely to cause skin, prostate and pancreatic cancer, she added.

Emphasising that a drinker’s risk increased in relation to the amount consumed, Connor said: “For all these there is a dose-response relationship.”

No Safe Level of Drinking

Connor arrived at her conclusions after studying reviews undertaken over the past 10 years by the World Cancer Research Fund, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the World Health Organisation’s cancer body, and other authoritative bodies.

Writing in the journal Addiction, Connor said that alcohol is estimated to have caused about half a million deaths from cancer in 2012 alone – 5.8 percent of cancer deaths worldwide.

She said that based on current evidence there is no safe level of drinking with respect to cancer, though the risks are reduced for some cancers when people stop drinking.

She pointed out that the supposed health benefits of drinking – such as red wine being good for the heart – were “seen increasingly as disingenuous or irrelevant in comparison to the increase in risk of a range of cancers.”

Earlier this year, the UK’s chief medical officers said no level of regular drinking is without risks to health.

According to their recommendations, men should consume no more than 14 units of alcohol per week, down from the previous 21 units and bringing them into line with the recommendation for women.

Modelling for the study showed that, compared with non-drinkers, women who regularly drink two units a day have a 16 percent increased risk of developing breast cancer and dying from it. Those who regularly consume five units a day have a 40 percent increased risk.

For every 1,000 women who do not drink, 109 will develop breast cancer. This rises to 126 women for those who drink 14 units or less per week, and 153 women for those who drink 14 to 35 units a week.

Scientists are still researching how alcohol can lead to cancer. One theory is that alcohol damages DNA.

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