Why Even One Alcoholic Drink Per Day Boosts Cancer Risk
We've looked at the French for years to discover exactly why their high consumption of wine has led to lower rates of heart disease and cancer. Scientists discovered more than a decade ago that it had nothing to do with the alcohol and everything to do with resveratrol antioxidants in red grapes. The French are also more active and eat less processed foods with less toxic preservatives, which may protect them against many cancers. However, when it comes to alcohol consumption, the same is not true for westerners. 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 and drinking even small amounts of alcohol, as little as one drink, can increase the risk of developing cancer, a new study has warned.
Those who drink alcoholic beverages may want to rethink their drinking in light of the many warnings about smaller amounts of alcohol use. The alcohol industry and the media have portrayed one glass, even two glasses, of wine or beer as not only safe, but possibly healthy. They tell the public that there is only danger when the use of alcohol is excessive or abusive.
Alcohol, regardless of its type (i.e. beer, wine, liquor, etc) is a class A1 carcinogen which are confirmed human carcinogens. Alcohol consumption has been causally related with breast cancer for some time. Increasing evidence indicates a stronger association with neoplasms, though the risk is elevated for other types of breast cancers too.
In a previous study posted in the journal Neuroscience, lead author Megan Anderson, reported that even moderate drinking -- drinking less during the week and more on the weekends -- significantly reduces the structural integrity of the adult brain.
"In the short term there may not be any noticeable motor skills or overall functioning problems, but in the long term this type of behavior could have an adverse effect on learning and memory," said Anderson.
The link between breast cancer and alcohol is already known but it has not been clear if there was an the increased risk with low levels of consumption or a 'safe' threshold, below which there was no effect on breast cancer. Researchers from the University of Heidelberg in Germany and the University of Milan, in Italy, wrote in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism after analyzing 113 research papers: "Since several populations show a high prevalence of light drinkers among women, even the small increase in risk we reported -- in the order of five percent -- represents a major public health issue in terms of breast cancers attributable to alcohol consumption."
In addition, although higher levels of alcohol consumption lead 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 deaths.
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 under-emphasized 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."
Karen Foster is a holistic nutritionist, avid blogger, with five kids and an active lifestyle that keeps her in pursuit of the healthiest path towards a life of balance.