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Your Cocktails Are Carcinogenic

Alcoholic drinks contain higher-than-trace levels of cancer-causing carcinogens, finds a new study.

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Four or more drinks a day could put you in
the danger zone. Photo via

By Valerie Tejeda

04/10/12

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If you pass on those lunchtime martinis, you could be decreasing your risk of cancer, according to new research. A study, published in the International Journal of Cancer, finds that commercial samples of alcoholic drinks contained above-trace levels of carcinogens including arsenic, benzene, formaldehyde and lead. Ethanol, as expected, was the carcinogen with the highest concentration in alcoholic beverages. "The protective effect of moderate alcohol consumption proven in epidemiology is on cardiovascular disease, and not on cancer," said lead author Dirk Lachenmeier, an epidemiologist at the Dresden University of Technology. “Our intention was to compare the different carcinogenic substances.” As far as how many drinks would be be considered harmful, the study found that light to moderate drinkers should be relatively safe, but those who drink four or more drinks a day are at substantially higher risk. The researchers also stated that one type of alcohol may not be necessarily be better than others—red wine, for example, is thought to be healthier than other alcohols. "We think that the current state of research does not allow concluding that red wine is less carcinogenic than white wine, or any other alcoholic beverage," wrote co-author Jürgen Rehm. Even though there has been evidence of resveratrol—a compound found in red wine—lowering breast cancer risk, Lachenmeier believes more research is needed to substantiate those claims, saying "most studies on such compounds, like resveratrol, are based on in-vitro results, which are not usable for quantitative dose-response analyses as conducted in our study."

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