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How does alcohol consumption affect cancer risk and life expectancy?


How much does alcohol consumption harm our health?

Most people are probably aware that consuming large amounts of alcohol is not exactly good for our health. A new study has now analyzed the health risk posed by light to moderate alcohol consumption. The researchers found that alcohol consumption increases cancer risk and the likelihood of premature death.

In their current study, the scientists at Queen’s University Belfast found that increased alcohol consumption increases the risk of premature death or cancer. The doctors published the results of their study in the English-language journal "PLOS Medicine".

What is the maximum amount of alcohol to drink per week?

The study also found that a person's combined risk of dying younger or developing cancer is lowest among light drinkers. The risk is low if those affected consume three alcoholic beverages a week. This risk increases with each additional drink a week, the experts explain. Light drinkers also appear to have a lower combined risk of all-cause mortality and cancer compared to those who never drink. But more research is needed to determine the reason, the researchers add.

There was a surprising finding in the study

Light drinkers were expected to have a similar risk to those who never drink alcohol, so the reduced risk was surprising for light drinkers, says study author Andrew Kunzmann of Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland. The reasons for the reduced risk among light drinkers compared to people who never drink alcohol are not yet known in the scientific community. Some experts have suggested that alcohol could have a cardio-protective effect that could reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Results could lead to new guidelines

In general, a better understanding of the health risks associated with drinking alcohol can help create clearer guidelines on how much people should limit their alcohol consumption, doctors say.

The data of almost 100,000 participants were analyzed

The new study included data from 99,654 adults from the United States. The participants were between 55 and 74 years old. The data collected between 1993 and 2001 came from the US prostate, lung, colon, and ovarian cancer screening studies.

Particularly moderate and heavy alcohol consumption increases the risk of cancer

The average amount of alcohol someone drank in life was linearly linked to the overall risk of cancer, as the risk increased the more people drank, the researchers say. Alcohol is regarded as the third largest modifiable risk factor for cancer, which is responsible for 5.6 percent of cancers, the scientists explain. There has been evidence for several years that alcohol increases the risk of cancer. The results of the current study support the already known evidence that particularly moderate and heavy alcohol consumption increases the risk of cancer, but they also show the opposite effect of light alcohol consumption in relation to all-cause mortality. (as)

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