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Even light to moderate drinking linked to cancer risk

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Drinking just one alcoholic drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men increases the risk of certain alcohol related cancers in women and male smokers, suggests US research.

Overall, light to moderate drinking was associated with a minimally increased risk of total cancer in both men and women, suggested the large study published in the British Medical Journal.

However, among women, light to moderate drinking – up to one drink per day – was associated with an increased risk of alcohol-related cancer, mainly breast cancer.

“In women who have never smoked, the risk of alcohol related cancer (mainly breast cancer) increases even within the range up to one alcoholic drink a day”

Study authors

Risk of alcohol related cancers was also higher among light and moderate drinking men – up to two drinks per day – but only in those who smoked or had done previously.

Researchers from Boston looked at data from two large US studies that tracked 88,084 women and 47,881 men for up to 30 years.

They assessed risk of total cancer as well as known alcohol-related cancers, including those of the the colorectum, female breast, liver, oral cavity, pharynx, larynx and oesophagus.

Light to moderate drinking was defined as up to one standard drink per day for women and up to two standard drinks per day for men, with one standard drink roughly equivalent to a small glass of wine or a bottle of beer.

During the follow-up period, a total of 19,269 and 7,571 cancers were diagnosed in women and men, respectively.

The researchers found that, overall, light to moderate drinking was associated with a small but non-significant increased risk of total cancer in both men and women, regardless of smoking history.

For alcohol-related cancers, risk was increased among light and moderate drinking men who had ever smoked, but not among men who never smoked.

However, even in never smoking women, risk of alcohol-related cancers, mainly breast cancer, increased even within the range of up to one drink a day.

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