Even 1 drink a day boosts cancer death risk

Updated: Feb 15, 2013, 15:46 PM IST

Washington: Drinking even small amounts of alcohol can increase the risk of developing cancer, a new study has warned.

Researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) have shown that alcohol is a major contributor to cancer deaths and an average of 18 years of potential life lost.

In addition, although higher levels of alcohol consumption led to a higher cancer risk, average consumption of 1.5 drinks per day or less accounted for 30 percent of all alcohol-attributable cancer deaths.

Timothy Naimi, MD, MPH, from the Department of Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine and colleagues from the National Cancer Institute, the Alcohol Research Group, Public Health Institute and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, examined recent data from the U.S. on alcohol consumption and cancer mortality. They found that alcohol resulted in approximately 20,000 cancer deaths annually, accounting for about 3.5 percent of all cancer deaths in the U.S.

Breast cancer was the most common cause of alcohol-attributable cancer deaths in women, accounting for approximately 6,000 deaths annually, or about 15 percent of all breast cancer death s.

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.

"The relationship between alcohol and cancer is strong, but is not widely appreciated by the public and remains underemphasized even by physicians," said Naimi, who served as the paper`s senior author. "Alcohol is a big preventable cancer risk factor that has been hiding in plain sight."

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