Low Alcohol Consumption May Also Increase Women’s Cancer Risk

Jun 5, 2009 by

Low Alcohol Consumption May Also Increase Women’s Cancer Risk

Does alcohol increase cancer risk, or does it not? Most people say yes. Others say it depends on the type of alcohol; supporters of red wine, for example, insist that antioxidants in it help to boost health and lower risk of disease.

The study described in the following article, though not perfect, gives us some insight into the association between drinking alcohol and risk of cancer.

Even Light Alcohol Consumption may Raise Cancer Risk in Women

by Reuben Chow

Alcohol consumption has previously been strongly linked with certain types of cancer, for example those of the mouth and throat, but its contribution to other types of malignancies have not been as firmly established. A large study conducted in Britain and recently published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute has found that even light to moderate alcohol drinking could raise a woman’s risk of several common types of cancer.

Details and Findings of Study

The study team had examined the questionnaire data of almost 1.3 million middle-aged women who were involved in the Million Women Study. The women had gone for breast cancer screening between 1996 and 2001. The average follow-up period of the study was 7.2 years, during which over 68,000 ladies developed invasive cancers.

Having accounted for other possible risk factors such as age, weight and cigarette smoking, the researchers found that even light to moderate drinking contributed to statistically significant increases in risk of common cancers, such as those of the liver, rectum and breast. In fact, even the consumption of as little as one alcoholic drink, or about 10g of alcohol, each day could heighten cancer risk. This is somewhat of a revelation, as cancer is usually associated with heavy drinking. Further, with every additional drink, the risk got higher.

Risk of cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, esophagus and larynx also increased with alcohol consumption, as did total cancer risk. Lower risks for thyroid cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and renal cell carcinoma were, however, linked with increasing alcohol consumption. Another interesting finding of the study was that cancer risk was raised regardless of the type of alcohol which was consumed, even wine.

Limitations of Study

The study, though, is not without its shortcomings, as some parties have quickly pointed out. For example, in analyzing the study data, the researchers had omitted women who reported not drinking any alcohol at all at the start of the study. This was based on the assumption that this might be a biased group due to the fact that some of those women may have stopped alcohol consumption because of poor health. The adoption of such methodology meant that the study did not have a “no alcohol consumption” reference group.

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