Daily Archives: 18/09/2016

Even moderate drinkers are at greater risk of cancer – New Zealand study

breast cancer riskThis was featured in the Daily Mail in July looking at a 2012 cancer study from New Zealand where the findings showed that even moderate drinkers alcohol consumption affected risk rate.

It is known that drinking excess alcohol can increase a person’s risk of various cancers.

But now, a new study has revealed even moderate drinkers should be concerned.

Indulging in less than two alcoholic beverages a day, puts drinkers at heightened risk of breast and bowel cancer – two of the most deadly forms of the disease.

Furthermore, experts at the University of Otago, said alcohol is also linked to cancer of the mouth, pharynx, oesophagus, larynx and liver.

Researchers found alcohol was responsible for 236 cancer deaths in people aged younger than 80 in New Zealand in 2012.

Lead author, professor Jennie Connor at Otago Medical School, said the findings relating to breast cancer were particularly sobering.

‘About 60 per cent of all alcohol-attributable cancer deaths in New Zealand women are from breast cancer,’ she said.

‘We estimated 71 breast cancer deaths in 2007 and 65 in 2012 were due to drinking, and about a third of these were associated with drinking less than two drinks a day on average.

‘Although risk of cancer is much higher in heavy drinkers there are fewer of them, and many alcohol-related breast cancers occur in women who are drinking at levels that are currently considered acceptable.’ 

The study, a collaboration with the Global Burden of Disease Alcohol Group, and published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review, builds on previous research that identified 30 per cent of all alcohol-attributable deaths in New Zealand to be be linked to cancer, more than all other chronic diseases combined.

It uses evidence that alcohol causes some types of cancer after combining dozens of large studies conducted internationally over several decades.

The cancers that are known to be causally related to alcohol include two of the most common causes of cancer death in New Zealand, breast and bowel cancer, but also cancer of the mouth, pharynx, oesophagus, larynx and liver. 

This New Zealand study estimated mortality for 2007 and 2012. 

Professor Connor added: ‘There was little difference between men and women in the number of cancer deaths due to alcohol, even though men drink much more heavily than women, because breast cancer deaths balanced higher numbers of deaths in men from other cancer types.

‘These premature deaths from cancer resulted in an average 10.4 years of life lost per person affected, with more loss of life among Māori than non-Māori, and for breast cancer compared with other cancers.’

Professor Connor said while these alcohol-attributable cancer deaths only account for 4.2 per cent of all cancer deaths in people under the age of 80, what makes them ‘so significant is that we know how to avoid them’.  

‘Individual decisions to reduce alcohol consumption will reduce risk in those people,’ she said. 

‘But reduction in alcohol consumption across the population will bring down the incidence of these cancers much more substantially, and provide many other health benefits as well.

‘Our findings strongly support the use of population-level strategies to reduce consumption because, apart from the heaviest drinkers, people likely to develop cancer from their exposure to alcohol cannot be identified, and there is no level of drinking under which an increased risk of cancer can be avoided.

‘We hope that better understanding of the relationship of alcohol with cancer will help drinkers accept that the current unrestrained patterns of drinking need to change.’

Further coverage:

Alcohol is a direct cause of seven forms of cancer, finds study
Alcohol ‘a direct cause of seven types of cancer’

“Even one glass of wine a day raises the risk of cancer: Alarming study reveals booze is linked to at least seven forms of the disease,” reports the Mail Online. The news comes from a review that aimed to summarise data from a range of previous studies to evaluate the strength of evidence that alcohol causes cance. The study was published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Addiction. It is available on an open-access basis and is free to read online | NHS Choices: Behind the Headlines, UK

Not new research but it re-enforces for me the value of the new UK drinking recommendations and the message that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption where our health is concerned.