London: It`s not just heavy drinkers who need to worry about the health implications of alcohol, according to a new study, which indicates that even light drinking increases cancer risk.
The research based on more than 150,000 men and women found that light drinking increases the likelihood of cancer of the mouth, pharynx, oesophagus and breast, and estimates that light drinking is responsible for 34,000 deaths a year worldwide, the Independent reported.
In the new study, researchers from the University of Milan and other centres in the US, France, Canada, Iran and Sweden, estimated that, in one year alone, 24,000 deaths from oesophageal cancer, 5,000 from oral and pharyngeal, and 5,000 from breast cancer, were due to light drinking.
The study, being reported in the Annals of Oncology, defined light drinking as up to one drink a day or 12.5g or less of ethanol.
One drink a day increased the risk of cancer of the oesophagus by almost a third, according to the study.
Low alcohol intake increased the risk of oral cavity and pharynx cancer by 17 per cent, and breast cancer in women by 5 per cent.
“This study adds to the evidence linking alcohol consumption to several types of cancer, and confirms that even light drinkers have a small but definite increase in the risk, particularly for those parts of the body, such as the throat and oesophagus, that come into direct contact with alcohol,” said Professor Peter Johnson, Cancer Research UK`s chief clinician.
“People who wish to minimise their risk of cancer can help by cutting down on their drinking,” he suggested.
Just why light intake increases the risk of some cancers and not others, is unclear. The researchers suggest that with cancer of the mouth, pharynx and oesophagus it may be because the alcohol comes into direct contact with the affected tissue.
They suggest the rise in risk for breast cancer may be associated with increased levels of oestrogen, or higher levels of insulin-like growth factors that are produced by the liver after drinking alcohol.