Even light drinking (1 drink/day) can increase the risk of developing certain cancers, according to a review of over 200 scientific studies published in the Journal of Oncology. Indeed, researchers say that light drinking could be a reason for as many as 34,000 deaths a year.
In particular, researchers from the University of Milan and other institutions in the US, France, Canada, Iran and Sweden found that light drinking increases the risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, esophagus and breast. One drink a day increased the risk of developing cancer of the esophagus by a third, of having oral cavity and pharynx cancer by 17 percent and of developing breast cancer by 5 percent.
Translated into numbers, researchers said that low alcohol consumption was responsible for 24,000 deaths from esophageal cancer, 5,000 from oral and pharyngeal cancer and 5,000 from breast cancer.
Data from 92,000 light drinkers and 60,000 non-drinkers provided the basis for the study‘s findings.
The researchers did not find a link between light drinking and colon, liver and larynx cancers, all of which have been associated with heavier drinking. Worldwide, 2.2 million deaths a year can be linked to alcohol, with 3.6 percent of all cancers due to the consumption of alcohol.
In the Independent, Professor Peter Johnson, Cancer Research UK‘s chief clinician, points out that the study’s findings highlight that there is a “small but definite increase in the risk, particularly for those parts of the body, such as the throat and esophagus, that come into direct contact with alcohol.”
As for why light drinking can be linked to breast cancer, researchers noted that this is possibly because, after drinking alcohol, the liver produces “increased levels of estrogen, or higher levels of insulin-like growth factors.”
Of course, other studies have found that light drinking can have health benefits, including reducing the risk of heart disease, type-2 diabetes and dementia.
The new study is notable for highlighting health risks from only one drink a day, while most other studies have looked at people whose drinking is moderate or high or who are binge drinkers. It’s not the news many wish to hear regarding even light alcohol consumption but more evidence to keep in mind about preventing cancer.
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