April 8, 2011
Cancer And Alcohol Consumption
According to a study released on Friday, about one in 10 cancers in men and one in 33 in women in western European countries are caused by current and past alcohol consumption.
Researchers said that for some types of cancer, the rates are significantly higher.
The study found that for men in 2008, 44, 25 and 33 percent of upper digestive track, liver and colon cancers respectively were caused by alcohol in six of the countries examined.
The study also found that half of these cancer cases occurred in men who drank more alcohol than recommended.
The cancer rates for women in the some countries was 18 percent for throat, mouth and stomach, 17 percent for liver, five percent for breast and four percent for colon cancer.
Seventy-five percent of these cases were due to daily consumption of alcohol above recommended limits.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has long maintained that there is a causal link between alcohol consumption and cancers, especially of the liver, colon, upper digestive tract and best cancer.
However, few studies have tried to connect the dots across a large population between cancer rates and total alcohol consumption, or the proportion of the disease burden occurring in people who drink more than guidelines would allow.
"Our data show that many cancer cases could have been avoided if alcohol consumption is limited to two alcoholic drinks per day in men and one alcoholic drink per day in women," Madlen Schutze, an epidemiologist at the German Institute of Human Nutrition in Potsdam and lead author of the study, said in a statement.
She said the findings also suggest that the limits set by many national health authorities may not be stringent enough to help avoid the disease.
"Even more cancer cases would be prevented if people reduced their alcohol intake to below recommended guidelines or stopped drinking alcohol at all," she said in a statement.
The results are drawn from the so-called EPIC cancer survey of 363,000 men and women who have been tracked since the mid-1990s.
The researchers said that other risk factors that might have also led to cancer were taken into account.
About 44 percent of men in Germany exceeded the 24-gram daily limit, followed by Denmark and Britain.
Germany still topped the list among women with 43.5 percent exceeding the limit, following Denmark with 41 percent and Britain with 37.7 percent.
Naomi Allen, a Cancer Research UK epidemiologist based at Oxford University, told The Telegraph: "This research supports existing evidence that alcohol causes cancer and that the risk increases even with drinking moderate amounts."
She added: "The results from this study reflect the impact of people's drinking habits about 10 years ago. People are drinking even more now than then and this could lead to more people developing cancer because of alcohol in the future."
Sara Hiom, director of health information at Cancer Research U.K., told BBC that many people did not know that drinking alcohol could increase their cancer risk.
"In the last 10 years, mouth cancer has become much more common and one reason for this could be because of higher levels of drinking - as this study reflects."
"Along with being a non-smoker and keeping a healthy bodyweight, cutting back on alcohol is one of the most important ways of lowering your cancer risk."
Cancer Partners UK medical director Professor Karol Sikora told BBC that the message had to be "drink occasionally, but not regularly".
"This is the best data we've got and we're ever likely to get."
"The take-home message is that the more alcohol you drink, some of the common cancers - the four cancers that have been identified - do increase, and that's worrying. So the message has to be 'look at drinking habits, and reduce.'"