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A Drink Per Day Increase A woman’s Risk Of Cancer

Thursday, February 26th, 2009 A Drink Per Day Increase A woman’s Risk Of Cancer

Both the BBC and the Guardian (Ian Sample-24 02 09) are reporting on the issue that a glass of wine each evening can increase a woman’s risk to developing common cancers as opposed to their teetotaller counterparts.

It is being argued that just one drink per day is causing an extra 7,000 cancer cases, equal to 11% of the 45,000 cases diagnosed each year. Mostly breast, liver, rectal mouth and throat cancers in UK women every year.

Researchers at the University of Oxford said the findings, which are part of the Million Women Study send a strong message, that even light regular drinking may seriously threaten their health.

Naomi Allen, a cancer epidemiologist who led the research, used medical records to identify cases of cancer among a group of 1,280,296 middled-aged women. Of the women who drank, the average intake was one unit per day, the equivalent to a small glass of wine or 8g of alcohol. A pint of beer would count as two units. Very few of the women consumed more than three drinks a day.

Over a seven-year period, 68,775 women were diagnosed with cancer according to the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Of those who did drink, virtually all consumed fewer than 21 drinks per week, and an average of 10g of alcohol per day, which is equivalent to just over one unit of alcohol found in half a pint of lager, a 125ml glass of wine or a single measure of spirits.

Nearly 70,000 of the middle-aged women developed cancer and a pattern emerged with alcohol consumption.

Moreover, whilst alcohol seemed to reduce the risk of some very rare cancers, such as kidney, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and thyroid tumours, it raised the risk of others. For every 1,000 women, drinking regularly once a day was linked to 11 extra breast cancers, one more oral cancer and one additional case of rectal cancer each year. Cases of oesophageal, laryngeal and liver cancer all rose by 0.7 extra cases per 1,000 women per year. The increase in cancer risk was the same whether women drank wine, beer, spirits or a mixture.

“In the UK, cancers of breast, liver, rectum, mouth and throat together number about 118 per 1,000 women each year. Having one drink a day would cause 15 extra cases of cancer per 1,000 women [per year] up to the age of 75.”

It has also been established that drinking twice a day would lead to a doubling of extra cases to 30.

Arguably it has also been determined that the consumption of just one drink a day increased the risk of all types of cancer by 6% in women up to the age of 75.

The rates for individual cancers varied, with one drink a day causing a 12% rise in the risk of breast cancer, a 10% rise in rectal cancer, a 22% rise in gullet cancer, a 29% rise in mouth cancer and a 44% rise in throat cancer.

Allen also states that, “The findings of this report show quite strongly that even low levels of drinking that were regarded to be safe do increase cancer risk.

“About 5% of all cancers in the UK are due to drinking something in the order of one alcoholic drink a day.”

In addition she further adds, “It is up to individual people to make their own decision. All of us to some extent have to weigh up the risks and take some responsibility for our health.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “We keep our guidance on sensible drinking under review. We currently advise on a lower risk drinking limit and that drinking above this level could be harmful.

“There is no completely safe level of drinking but this lower level reflects the known risks including breast cancer, which is partly why there is a lower drinking limit for women.

“We look forward to examining this research in more detail.”

Dr Sarah Cant of Breakthrough Breast Cancer said: “We already know that drinking alcohol can increase your risk of breast cancer.

“This study suggests that for women over 50 even drinking moderate amounts of any type of alcohol can have many health consequences, including a greater chance of developing breast cancer.

“Around 80% of breast cancer cases are diagnosed in women aged over 50, so limiting how much you drink is one step you can take to try to reduce your risk of developing the disease.”

Furthermore, breast cancer is now the most common cancer in the UK. editorial published alongside the research, Michael Lauer and Paul Sorlie at the National Heart, Lung And Blood Institute in Maryland USA argue. “From the standpoint of cancer risk the message of this report could not be clearer. There is no level of alcohol consumption that can be considered safe.”

However, given all the said information, smoking is still by far the largest single cause of cancer, accounting for around one third of all diagnosed cases. Diet and diet-related factors, such as obesity, are thought to explain a further third, with alcohol accounting for around 5% of cancers.

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