Light Drinking Linked With Increased Cancer Risk

By McCarton Ackerman 08/24/15

Just one drink a day can increase one's risk for developing cancer.

businessman bottle.jpg

Another research study chronicling the potential benefits and harms of drinking is now advising users to err on the side of caution, suggesting that even light drinking can increase one's risk of cancer.

Research published in the most recent issue of the British Medical Journal looked at data from 88,000 women and 47,000 men over the age of 30. All of the participants consumed less than the study’s criteria for light or moderate drinking, which is just under two drinks per day for women and four drinks per day for men.

The U.S.-based scientists, led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, found that even among women who never smoked, the risk of alcohol-related cancers increased with just one drink per day.

An increased risk of alcohol-related cancers was associated with binge drinking for women, but not for men. Meanwhile, increased frequency of drinking was associated with increased risk in men, but not in women. Breast cancer was the leading alcohol-related cancer in women, while colorectal cancer was the primary alcohol-related cancer in men.

Dr. Richard Roope, clinical lead for cancer at the Royal College of GPs, cited recent figures which showed that 30% of bowel cancers, 21% of esophageal cancers, 12% of bowel cancers, and about 6% of breast cancers in women are associated with alcohol every year. The study estimated that alcohol consumption is responsible for 3.6% of all cancers worldwide.

A separate study from February 2013 found that alcohol is responsible for one in every 30 cancer deaths per year in the U.S. About 30% of all alcohol-related cancer deaths came from consuming just 1.5 drinks or fewer per day.

“People who are higher alcohol users were at higher risk, but there was really no safe level of alcohol use," said study author Dr. David Nelson, director of the Cancer Prevention Fellowship Program at the U.S. National Cancer Institute. "From a cancer prevention perspective, the less you drink, the lower your risk of an alcohol-related cancer and, obviously, if one doesn't drink at all then that's the lowest risk.”

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.