A new study published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research looked at levels of alcohol consumption and 20-year mortality among adults between the ages of 55 and 65 at the start of the study and found that moderate drinkers had lower mortality risks compared to abstainers and heavy drinkers. This result is similar to other studies in showing a possible protective effect from moderate drinking.
Underscore moderate drinking.
But let’s also be clear about what research on alcohol and cancer shows. Alcohol is a cause of the following cancers:
*Mouth, pharynx, larynx
*Colorectal (convincing for men, probable for women)
Based on that research and the potential heart-health benefits observed with MODERATE consumption, the AICR expert panel states: “If alcoholic drinks are consumed, limit consumption to no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.”
The best advice for cancer prevention: Don’t drink.
The best advice for overall health: Don’t start drinking if you don’t already – but if you do, limit yourself according to our recommendation.
The aforementioned headline was based on the finding that heavy drinkers had a 45% increased mortality risk, while abstainers had a 51% increased risk compared to moderate drinkers. That’s hardly an endorsement of heavy drinking.
Some important caveats of this study:
1. Subjects were between 55 and 65 years of age. The authors note the possibility that when studying alcohol-mortality relationship in older adults, there may be a bias in that the most vulnerable individuals may die before reaching older age.
2. The abstainers were not lifetime abstainers. It is possible that those who have never consumed alcohol would show a different result.
3. Alcohol consumption was determined at the beginning of the study only and according to the authors it is likely that consumption declined over time.
4. Moderate consumption was defined as 1 to < 3 drinks per day and heavy consumption as 3 or more drinks per day
The authors note that some studies have found that moderate alcohol consumption may increase risk of falls in older adults.
For more information on alcohol and cancer risk read our brochure The Facts about Alcohol