A large European study published in the British Medical Journal has concluded that alcohol could be directly responsible for cancer cases in men and women. It would appear that the risk of cancer is greatly increased in men who drink more than three units of alcohol each day, and women who drink more than one and a half units each day. The study aimed to show the potential reduction in cancer if individuals kept within these limits.
What Did the Study Show?
The study involved almost 364,000 people across eight European countries, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, Greece, Denmark and the UK. Participants, who were all aged between 35 and 70, were asked to complete a questionnaire in 1992 as part of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition. They were asked to report their alcohol consumption, both at the time of the questionnaire and in the past.
The participants were then tracked over an average period of nine years to see which of them developed cancer, and to determine whether this was linked to their past or present alcohol consumption. The four cancers that were studied were those that were already known to be associated with alcohol consumption.
The results of the study were adjusted for certain cancer risk factors such as body mass index, smoking, diet and level of education. After adjustments, the following results were discovered.
Alcohol consumption is responsible for:
*44% of upper digestive tract cancers (mouth, throat and esophagus) in men (25% in women)
*33% of liver cancers in men (18% in women)
*17% of colorectal cancers in men (4% in women)
*5% of breast cancers in women
The results of the study were then used by individual countries to estimate the number of cancer cases in that country that could be attributed to excessive alcohol consumption. For example it was shown that in 2008, alcohol was a direct cause of 13,000 cancer cases in the UK alone.
How Does Alcohol Cause Cancer?
When alcohol is broken down within the body it produces a chemical that is capable of damaging DNA within the body’s cells, increasing the risk of developing cancer.
The Hidden Dangers of Alcohol
Everyone is aware that heavy drinking brings obvious health problems. We know that alcoholics are likely to suffer from cancer, liver cirrhosis and heart problems, as well as potentially sustaining injuries from the aggressive tendencies that alcohol can produce.
However, many people who only consider themselves moderate drinkers, such as men who regularly consume more than three drinks per day and women who regularly consume more than one and a half drinks per day, are also likely to be suffering from long term alcohol related health issues.
As well as an increase in cancer risk and the risk of liver cirrhosis, moderate drinking can bring on the following additional issues:
- High blood pressure
- Weight gain
- Poor sleep
- Sexual problems
- Social and relationship problems
Even if you think you only consume a moderate amount of alcohol, regularly exceeding the recommended limits of three units per day for men and one and a half units per day for women can have an enormous impact on your overall health, and can lead to long term degenerative disease. Reducing your alcohol consumption is a great way to improve your general health and increase your life expectancy.