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Even Moderate Alcohol Consumption Associated with Death due to Cancer

Update Date: Feb 15, 2013 02:56 AM EST

Drinking alcohol, even in moderate amounts, can raise the risk of cancers, says a new study. Researchers have found that alcohol use is linked to about 3.5 percent or one in every 30 deaths due to cancer in the U.S.

Moderate alcohol consumption is not only considered safe, but also linked with health benefits including an improvement in quality of life in old age. However, the latest study suggests that it's not just heavy drinking that's associated with death due to cancer, but moderate consumption of alcohol as well.

Study authors report that although low levels of alcohol can prevent cardiovascular death and diabetes, it can significantly raise the chance of death due to cancer.

According to estimates, nearly 17.6 million adults in the United States are either alcoholics or have other alcohol-related problems.

The study included data from 2009 U.S. mortality data along with data available on alcohol consumption in the U.S.

Data analysis showed that in 2009, an estimated 18,178 to 21,284 deaths due to cancer were linked to alcohol use. Although a majority of these deaths, 48-60 percent occurred in people who were heavy drinkers with alcohol consumption of more than three drinks per day, study showed that even people who drank moderate amounts of alcohol, around 1.5 drinks a day had high risk of death due to cancer. About 30 percent of all deaths due to cancer occurred in people who drank moderate amounts of alcohol.

"As expected, people who are higher alcohol users were at higher risk, but there was really no safe level of alcohol use," said Dr. David Nelson, director of the Cancer Prevention Fellowship Program at the U.S. National Cancer Institute and lead author of the study, reports WebMD.

"Reducing alcohol consumption is an important and underemphasized cancer prevention strategy, yet receives surprisingly little attention among public health, medical, cancer, advocacy and other organizations in the United States, especially when compared with efforts related to other cancer prevention topics such as screening, genetics, tobacco and obesity," the authors said, according to a news release.

The study will be published in the American Journal of Public Health.

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