Researchers have shown that alcohol is a major contributor to cancer deaths, even among alcohol users who consume very little and rarely.
A report by researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine and Boston University School of Public Health, published in theAmerican Journal of Public Health, indicates that reducing alcohol consumption is an important cancer prevention strategy as alcohol is a known carcinogen.
The relationship between alcohol and cancer is strong, but is not widely appreciated by the public and remains underemphasised even by physicians,” said Dr. Timothy Naimi from the Department of Medicine at the Boston University School of Medicine.
Alcohol is a big preventable cancer risk factor that has been hiding in plain sight.”
7 types of cancer
Previous studies consistently have shown that alcohol consumption is a significant risk factor for cancers of the mouth, throat, oesophagus and liver. More recent research has shown that alcohol also increases the risk of cancers of the colon, rectum and female breast.
Estimates have shown that alcohol accounts for about 4% of all cancer-related deaths worldwide.
Dr. Naimi and colleagues from the National Cancer Institute, the Alcohol Research Group, Public Health Institute and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, examined recent data from the US on alcohol consumption and cancer mortality. They found that alcohol resulted in about 20,000 cancer deaths annually, accounting for about 3.5% of all cancer deaths in the US.
Alcohol and breast cancer
Breast cancer was the most common cause of alcohol-attributable cancer deaths in women, accounting for roughly 6,000 deaths annually, or about 15% of all breast cancer deaths.
The researchers also found that each alcohol-related cancer death accounted for an average of 18 years of potential life lost. In addition, although higher levels of alcohol consumption led to a higher cancer risk, average consumption of 1.5 drinks per day or less accounted for 30% of all alcohol-attributable cancer deaths.