Based on a decade’s worth of research.
Alcohol consumption is linked with a slew of serious health problems, including liver disease, heart disease, stroke, and mental health disorders, like depression and anxiety.
It’s also been known to play a role in the development of cancer, and now, a researcher from Otago University in New Zealand has unveiled a direct link between alcohol and seven types of cancer — even moderate alcohol consumption.
Writing in the journal Addiction, Jennie Connor, a scientist from the preventive and social medicine department at Otago University, conducted an analysis of multiple studies regarding alcohol and cancer, confirming its direct link to breast, liver, colon, bowel, mouth and throat, esophagus, and larynx cancers.
“Even without complete knowledge of biological mechanisms [of how alcohol causes cancer], the epidemiological evidence can support the judgment that alcohol causes cancer of the oropharynx, larynx, oesophagus, liver, colon, rectum and breast,” she wrote in the paper.
The findings are based on a decade’s worth of research by a number of respected health groups, including the World Cancer Research Fund, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
Although it can’t be said that alcohol is the sole cause of these cancers, it certainly plays an important role in the onset of the diseases. In fact, Conner writes that alcohol-related cancers at these sites constitute up to 5.8 percent of cancer deaths around the world, which amounted to about half a million deaths in 2012.
“The highest risks are associated with the heaviest drinking but a considerable burden is experienced by drinkers with low to moderate consumption, due to the distribution of drinking in the population,” Conner said in an interview with The Guardian.
Therefore, she urges that campaigns to reduce alcohol consumption should encourage everyone to cut back on drinking and on understand the risks associated with alcohol, rather than just targeting heavy drinkers.
“Having some alcohol-free days each week is a good way to cut down on the amount you’re drinking,” Dr. Jana Witt, Cancer Research UK’s health information officer, told The Guardian.
“Also, try swapping every other alcoholic drink for a soft drink, choosing smaller servings or less alcoholic versions of drinks, and not keeping a stock of booze at home.”
Further research will have to confirm the actual biological reason for alcohol’s direct cancer-causing association, but until then, it’s important to be mindful of the risks when happy hour rolls around.
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