Researchers Link Excessive Drinking to Increased Risk of Several Types of Cancer

Although excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to numerous health problems over the years, cancer was usually a disease associated with smoking, chronic infections, exposure to carcinogenic toxins, and potential genetic links.

Now, however researchers have documented the existence of a pronounced link between alcohol consumption and an increased risk of developing certain types of cancer. These include cancers of the mouth, larynx, esophagus, liver, colon, breast, and possibly even pancreatic and lung cancer.

As reported by Reuters, the study was led by Dr. Paolo Boffetta of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in Lyon, France.  According to Dr. Boffetta, “alcohol is underestimated as a cause of cancer in many parts of the world.  A sizeable proportion of cancer today is due to alcohol intake and this is increasing in many regions, particularly in East Asia and Eastern Europe.”

The researchers determined that the degree of the cancer risk was directly related to the amount of alcohol consumed.  Since alcohol has, however, been found to have some protective effect with respect to cardiovascular disease, the researchers have advised people to drink in moderation as opposed to abstaining altogether.

 According to the European code against cancer, the daily amount of alcoholic consumption is two drinks for men and one for women.  The researchers found that central and Eastern Europe had higher rates of alcohol-related diseases such as cancer. 

Although Boffetta and his team believe that alcohol is most likely the “main factor” in the increased risk of head and neck cancer, specifically in central and eastern Europe, the exact mechanism by which alcohol affects the rates is still not clear. Some form of genetic susceptibility, however, is an “important component” of the process. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported in 2000 that alcohol was responsible for 185,000 deaths in men and 142,000 in women.  On the other hand, it was attributed to the prevention of 71,000 male deaths and 277,000 female deaths in the same year.

Thus, until more is understood about the alcohol-cancer link, the fact that there is a “linear dose response relation” between consumption and risk, the goal should be to control excessive drinking.

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