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Heavy drinking link to cancer

Friday April 8th, 2011

Over-use of alchohol is causing a horrendous toll of cancer across Europe, researchers claim today.

Alcohol consumption is responsible for almost one in ten cancers in men and one in 33 cancers in women in eight western European countries, according to the new analysis.

A study by German Institute of Human Nutrition in Potsdam-Rehbruecke, claims that between 40 and 98 per cent of the alcohol-attributable cancers occurred in people who drank more than the recommended guidelines on upper limits of two standard drinks a day in men and one standard drink a day in women.

Madlen Schütze, who led the study, used data from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer (EPIC) Study and alcohol consumption data compiled by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The EPIC study followed 363,988 men and women, mostly aged between 35 and 70, from France, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Greece, Germany and Denmark, from the mid 1990s in one of the largest studies into the links between diet and cancer.

The study calculated that in 2008, current and former alcohol consumption by men was responsible for about 57,600 cases of cancer of the upper digestive tract, colorectum, and liver in Denmark, Greece, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Great Britain. About 33,000 cases were caused by drinking more than two alcoholic drinks per day.

Alcohol consumption by women in the eight countries caused about 21,500 cases of upper digestive tract, liver, colorectum, and breast cancer, of which 17,400 was due to consumption of more than one drink of beer, wine, or spirits per day.

In the UK, more than 6,000 cancers of the mouth, food-pipe, voice-box and pharynx were caused by drinking, while alcohol accounted for more than 3,000 colorectal cancers and about 2,500 breast cancers per year, said Cancer Research UK, which also funded the EPIC research.

Researchers looked at how different levels of drinking affect the risk of cancer, and combined them with figures on how much British people drink.

Naomi Allen, a Cancer Research UK epidemiologist based at Oxford University, who works on the EPIC study, said: “This research supports existing evidence that alcohol causes cancer and that the risk increases even with drinking moderate amounts.

“The results from this study reflect the impact of people’s drinking habits about ten years ago. People are drinking even more now than then and this could lead to more people developing cancer because of alcohol in the future.”

Madlen Schütze said: “Our data show that many cancer cases could have been avoided if alcohol consumption is limited to two alcoholic drinks per day in men and one alcoholic drink per day in women, which are the recommendations of many health organisations.”

British Medical Journal April 8 2011

Tags: Cancer | Drug and Alcohol Abuse | Europe | UK News

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