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Drinking frequency linked to cancer risk

10th Oct 2011
Kathryn Eccles   all articles by this author
The study found high frequency drinking increased the risk of cancer in women, whereas in men increased risk was linked to the quantity consumed.

FREQUENT alcohol consumption increases women’s risk of cancer mortality by nearly a third, a study suggests.

The research found high frequency drinking drives the increased risk of all-site cancers among women, whereas among men increased risk is linked to the quantity consumed, with more than three drinks on ‘drinking days’ raising risk by 24%.

Pooled data from more than 324,000 US men and women, including more than 8000 cancer deaths, showed there was a mechanism between alcohol and cancer that could be used to counsel patients, addiction specialist Professor Jon Currie said.

“GPs don’t have to feel they are being moralistic to patients when talking about cutting down their alcohol consumption; it’s clearly now evidence based,” he said. 

Professor Currie, director of addiction medicine at St Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne, was architect of 2009 NHMRC guidelines that recommended no more than two drinks a day for both sexes.

“It’s very striking that [the study figures] are exactly around the same cut-off point as the NHMRC guidelines,” he said.

In relation to site-specific cancers, the study showed that women drinking high quantities of alcohol had double the risk of colorectal and pancreatic cancer, while greater drinking frequency conferred a 44% increased breast cancer risk. Men who drank more than three days a week increased their risk of prostate cancer by 55%.

Am J Epidemiol 2011; online 30 Sept


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