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Researchers link alcohol consumption with higher cancer risk

Even light, casual drinking can be dangerous to consumers’ health

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Photo (c) itakdalee - Getty Images
Researchers have been warning consumers about the risks associated with drinking alcohol for years. More recently, those risks have been closely tied to cancer

Now, a new study found that consumers could be at a higher risk of developing the disease even if consumers only consume alcohol moderately.

“Given the current burden of overall cancer incidence, we should further encourage promoting public education about alcohol-related cancer risk,” said researcher Dr. Masayoshi Zaitsu. 

How alcohol plays a role

The researchers compared over 63,000 cancer patients with those who were admitted into the hospital but were cancer-free at the start of the study. 

Participants reported on their alcohol consumption, both the frequency with which they drank and the volume of the drinks, so the researchers could determine what effect alcohol had on cancer risk. Ultimately, the study revealed that cancer and alcohol consumption are closely tied, as only those who abstained completely showed no additional risk of developing the disease. 

While higher alcohol intake was associated with a higher risk of cancer, the researchers say that light, casual drinking also came with health concerns, as consistency proved to be a bigger risk than volume. 

The researchers determined that even one drink per day over the course of 10 years could increase consumers’ cancer risk by as much as five percent, whereas two drinks per day, regardless of how long the habit has persisted, yielded similar results. 

Moving forward, the researchers hope that these findings are disseminated widely so consumers understand the full scope of the risk involved with drinking. 

Preventing cancer

A recent study conducted by researchers from Boston Medical Center yielded similar findings, and the research team called for tighter alcohol-related regulations as a way to lower cancer mortality rates. 

The study found that the cancer death rate was 8.5 percent lower in states that were stricter about alcohol policies, highlighting the potential lifesaving powers of such restrictions. 

“When thinking about cancer risk and cancer prevention, the focus tends to be on individual-level risk factors rather than environmental determinants of cancer, like public policies that affect the consumption of alcohol or tobacco,” said researcher Dr. Timothy Naimi. “Implementing effective policies to reduce alcohol consumption is a promising means of cancer prevention that merits further investigation.”

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