Researchers taking part in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study have found that alcohol consumption is responsible for around 10 percent of cancers in men and a further 3 percent of cancers in women.
The study included 109,118 men and 254,870 women. They were from eight different European countries: United Kingdom, France, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Greece, Germany and Denmark.
All the participants were interviewed about their lifestyle and factors that could possibly cause cancer, including their habits regarding alcohol, such as what type of alcohol they drank and how much. The researchers found that people who exceeded the recommended upper daily amount of alcohol had more cancers than those who didn’t.
The recommended upper limits are 24 g or two drinks per day for men and 12 g or one drink a day for women. As women have smaller internal organs than men, they cannot safely take as much alcohol as a man.
In 2008 there were 17,470 cases of cancer in women that were directly attributable to alcohol consumption and 33, 037 cases in men.
The cancers that are affected by alcohol are upper aerodigestive tract cancer, liver cancer, colorectal cancer and for women only, breast cancer.
They concluded, "In western Europe, an important proportion of cases of cancer can be attributable to alcohol consumption, especially consumption higher than the recommended upper limits. These data support current political efforts to reduce or to abstain from alcohol consumption to reduce the incidence of cancer."
So the next time you decide to have a drink, consider following the upper limit guidelines to reduce your risk of cancer.
Source: BMJ 2011; 342:d1584 doi: 10.1136/bmj.d1584 (Published 7 April 2011).
Joanna is a freelance health writer for The Mother magazine and Suite 101 with a column on infertility, http://infertility.suite101.com/. She is author of the book, 'Breast Milk: A Natural Immunisation,' and co-author of an educational resource on disabled parenting, in addition to running a charity for people damaged by vaccines or medical mistakes.