Alcohol and Cancer
Perhaps no illness is more feared in the developed world than cancer as few direct causes have been identified, with the exception of cigarette smoking. However, research is increasingly showing that obesity, poor diet, lack of exercise and heavy alcohol consumption increase our risk of contracting cancers of several kinds.
Scientists don’t know exactly why alcohol may increase the risk of developing some cancers, but research indicates that the following play a part:
However, the diseases where alcohol poses ‘significant risk’ at moderate levels of consumption are rare with the exception of breast cancer and for drinkers who also smoke.
The Canadian Cancer Society states 'Research shows that 30 to 35% of all cancers can be prevented by eating well, being active and maintaining a healthy body weight.The key to eating well and maintaining a healthy weight is to focus on what you add to your life, not what you take away. It's easier to add healthy foods each day rather than take away foods that you enjoy'. The society recommends limiting your consumption to one drink a day for women and two for men. For more information visit: www.cancer.ca
There have been few studies describing the relation between varying levels of alcohol consumption and the total risk of cancer. A paper published in the annals of oncology in May 2013 presents a meta-analysis that relates alcohol consumption to all-cancer mortality; it was based on almost 50,000 deaths reported in the literature from 18 prospective cohort studies. As expected, the reported average consumption of 50 or more grams of alcohol per day (equivalent to 4 or more typical drinks each day) was associated with an estimated 32% increased risk of dying from cancer, But, surprisingly, the analyses demonstrated a J-shaped curve for alcohol and cancer. Light drinkers (12g a day) showed a statistically significant 9% lower risk, moderate drinkers showed no effect, while heavier drinkers showed a 32% increased risk of all cancer mortality.
Reference: Jin M, Cai S, Guo J, Zhu Y, Li M, Yu Y, Zhang S, Chen K. Alcohol drinking and all cancer mortality: a meta-analysis. Ann Oncol 2013;24:807-816. doi: 10.1093/annonc/mds508.Y, Zhang S, Chen K. Alcohol drinking and all cancer mortality: a meta-analysis. Ann Oncol 2013;24:807-816. doi: 10.1093/annonc/mds508.
Drinking and smoking combined
Smoking and drinking together greatly increases your risk of developing throat and mouth cancer than doing either on their own. That’s because when you drink alcohol it’s easier for the mouth and throat to absorb the chemicals in tobacco that cause cancer.
It’s also true with oesophageal (gullet) cancer. One study found that people who drank up to five units of alcohol and smoked up to eight cigarettes per day could increase their risk of oesophageal cancer between 13 (for men) and 19 times (for women).
Cancer statistics for Canada
Lung, breast, colorectal and prostate cancer are the most common types of cancer in Canada (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer). Based on 2013 estimates, 187,600 new cases of cancer (excluding about 81,700 non-melanoma skin cancers) and 75,500 deaths will occur in Canada in 2013.
Further information the Canadian Cancer Society via:
Please visit the gateway to sensible drinking and health, alcoholinmoderation.com for specific studies and summary papers.
Your doctor can help you figure out if you should make any changes in your drinking, and offer help and advice along the way.
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