Alcohol consumption is a leading preventable cause of cancer

Alcohol consumption is a leading preventable cause of cancer

Alcohol consumption causes 4% of global cancer deaths and significantly raises your risk of mouth, throat, esophagus, liver colon, rectum and female breast cancer. 

Most people are almost completely unaware of this.

“The relationship between alcohol and cancer is strong, but is not widely appreciated by the public and remains underemphasized even by physicians.  We love hearing about studies that say that wine and chocolate are good for us.  And we’ve always been in search of snake oil.  Anything that’s a leading cause of death is not a good preventive agent.  Alcohol is a big preventable cancer risk factor that has been hiding in plain sight.  For drinkers, it shows that when it comes to cancer, the less you drink the better.  For non-drinkers, it’s another reason to feel happy they don’t drink”
Timothy Naimi, MD, MPH, associate professor from the Department of Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine.

“As expected, people who are higher alcohol users were at higher risk, but there was really no safe level of alcohol use.  In the broader context of all the issues and all the problems that alcohol is related to, alcohol causes 10 times as many deaths as it prevents.  I just don’t think there’s enough attention across the board, from physicians or public health.  It’s missing in plain sight.  It’s hard to talk about something that a lot of people are pretty familiar with.  It can be uncomfortable.  From a cancer prevention perspective, the less you drink, the lower your risk of an alcohol-related cancer and, obviously, if one doesn’t drink at all then that’s the lowest risk”
Dr. David Nelson, director of the Cancer Prevention Fellowship Program at the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

“When I talk about heart-healthy diets, my first words are not, ‘Have a glass of wine’.  We can certainly get the health benefits from other places and other foods”
Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, director of the women and heart disease program at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.

The first update of alcohol-linked cancer deaths in the U.S. in 30 years shows that:

  • Alcohol is one of the top causes of cancer deaths
  • Alcohol accounts for about 4% of all cancer-related deaths worldwide
  • Alcohol is a known carcinogen (cancer causer) even when consumed in small quantities
  • Alcohol causes more than double the cancer deaths of melanoma skin cancer but it receives much less attention
  • Alcohol causes around 20,000 US cancer deaths annually
  • Alcohol consumption of just 1.5 drinks per day (or less) accounted for 30% of all alcohol-attributable cancer deaths
  • Those drinking 3+ drinks a day accounted for 60% of the deaths.
  • This is 3.5% of all cancer deaths in the U.S.
  • Breast cancer is the most common cause of alcohol-attributable cancer deaths in women, accounting for approximately 6,000 deaths annually, or about 15% of all breast cancer deaths
  • Cancers of the mouth, throat and esophagus were common causes of alcohol-attributable cancer mortality in men, resulting in a total of about 6,000 annual deaths
  • Each alcohol-related cancer death accounted for an average of 18 years of potential life lost.
  • 1 in 30 cancer deaths worldwide is now caused by alcohol

Study by Timothy Naimi, MD, MPH, associate professor from the Department of Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), Dr. David Nelson, director of the Cancer Prevention Fellowship Program at the U.S. National Cancer Institute, and colleagues from Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH), the National Cancer Institute, the Alcohol Research Group, Public Health Institute and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.  The U.S., Canadian and French data used recent studies on alcohol consumption and cancer mortality from the 2009 Alcohol Epidemiologic Data System, the 2009 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and the 2009-2010 National Alcohol Survey.  As published in the April 2013 issue of the American Journal of Public Health.  As reported by sciencecodex.com, Boston University Medical Center, HealthDay News and NBC News on February 14, 2013.

Posted: Thursday 16 May 2013

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