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Daily Alcoholic Drink Increases Risk of Cancer Death

Drinks and Server, BluredDrinking a couple glasses of wine or any alcohol beverage every day may increase the risk of dying from cancer and shorten your life by almost two decades, suggests a new study published in the early online edition of the American Journal of Public Health

The study focused on the cancers linked to alcohol consumption: oral cavity and pharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, colorectum, and female breast cancer.

Researchers looked at recent U.S. data on cancer mortality and alcohol consumption. They used prior analyses linking alcohol consumption to cancer risk. Using two different methods, they estimated that alcohol caused on average 19,500 cancer deaths each year, which accounts for approximately 3.5 percent of all cancer deaths in the United States.

Cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx, larynx, and esophagus were the most common forms of alcohol-attributable cancer deaths for men, accounting for approximately 4,000-8,400 cancer deaths annually. For women, breast cancer was the leading cause of alcohol-attributable cancer deaths, accounting for approximately 15 percent of all breast cancer deaths (4,700-7,300 deaths annually).

Cancer risk increased with higher alcohol consumption. The greatest proportion of total alcohol-attributable deaths, about 30 percent, occurred in drinkers who consumed on average 1.5 drinks or less daily. (One standard alcoholic drink  is 14 grams of alcohol.)

The investigators then estimated the years of life lost by looking at alcohol sales and risk of death data.

Each alcohol-attributable death resulted in an average loss of 17 to 19 years of potential life.

The study cited AICR’s expert report and continuous updates on the link between alcohol and cancer risk. For breast cancer, AICR has found that any amount of alcohol increases risk. AICR’s expert report and its updates found alcohol consumption links to an 11 percent increased risk for breast cancer compared to non-drinkers.

Source: David E. Nelson, Dwayne W. Jarman, Jürgen Rehm, Thomas K. Greenfield, Grégoire Rey, William C. Kerr, Paige Miller, Kevin D. Shield, Yu Ye, and Timothy S. Naimi.  (2013). Alcohol-Attributable Cancer Deaths and Years of Potential Life Lost in the United States. American Journal of Public Health. e-View Ahead of Print.

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