Light Alcohol Drinking Decreases Cancer Risk; More Frequency Jumps Cancer Death Rate
Large study of cancer victims investigates alcohol consumption and cancer mortality - see Q&A by CDC on alcohol
consumption below story
Oct. 20, 2011 - Light to moderate alcohol consumption does not appear to increase the risk of cancer, says a new study
from the National Institutes of Health. In fact, light drinking was shown to result in a significant decrease in cancer risk. But, as the
quantity of alcohol consumed increased from 1 drink to 3 or more on drinking days, risk of cancer mortality increased by 22% among all
The analysis is based on the National Health Interview Survey in the U.S., assessing more than 300,000 subjects who
suffered over 8,000 deaths from cancer. The research reports on total cancer deaths and deaths from lung, colorectal, prostate, and breast
Comments on this critique are provided by the International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research.
● Moderate drinking consistently shows no effect in the analysis, and only heavier drinking was associated with an
increase in all-site cancer risk.
● Light to moderate consumption was not associated with site-specific cancers of the lung, colorectal, breast, or
● For site-specific cancers, an increase in risk of lung cancer was seen for heavier drinkers, with a tendency for
less cancer among light drinkers.
● There was no evidence of an effect of total alcohol consumption on colorectal, prostate, or breast cancer.
The authors excluded non-drinkers in a second analysis in which they used categories of usual daily quantity and of
frequency of consumption in an attempt to investigate their separate effects.
● For all-site cancer and for lung cancer, these results again show an increase in risk only for drinkers reporting
greater amounts of alcohol.
● The data also show an increase in cancer risk from more frequent drinking among women but not among men.
● For colorectal, prostate, and breast cancer, there is no clear pattern of an increase in risk from quantity of
● For frequency of drinking, again there is a suggestion of an increase in mortality risk with more frequent drinking,
although the trends are not statistically significant.
● Heavier drinking (three drinks or more per occasion) is known to be associated with a large number of adverse health
effects, including certain cancers, as was shown in this study.
When considering cancer, alcohol consumption should not be considered in isolation, but in conjunction with, other
lifestyle behaviors (especially smoking when considering lung cancer). Both quantity and frequency of consumption need to be considered when
evaluating the relation of alcohol to cancer; further, beverage-specific effects need to be further evaluated.
Frequently Asked Questions About Alcohol
● What is a standard drink in the United States?
A standard drink is equal to 13.7 grams (0.6 ounces) of pure alcohol. Generally, this amount of pure alcohol is found in
> 12-ounces of beer.
> 8-ounces of malt liquor.
> 5-ounces of wine.
> 1.5-ounces or a shot of 80-proof distilled spirits or liquor (e.g., gin, rum, vodka, or whiskey).
● Is beer or wine safer to drink than liquor?
No. One 12-ounce beer has about the same amount of alcohol as one 5-ounce glass of wine, or 1.5-ounce shot of liquor. It
is the amount of alcohol consumed that affects a person most, not the type of alcoholic drink.
● What does moderate drinking mean?
There is no one definition of moderate drinking, but generally the term is used to describe a lower-risk pattern of drinking. According to the
Dietary Guidelines for Americans,1 drinking in moderation is defined as having
no more than 1 drink per day for women and no more than 2 drinks per day for men. This definition is referring to the amount consumed on any
single day and is not intended as an average over several days.
Research grows saying
what we eat, drink impacts dementia
November 2, 2006
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