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Alcohol, Women, and Cancer

by James Heller 21. April 2009 10:45
April, 2009 marks the 22nd year of Alcohol Awareness Month.  

Tarzana Treatment Centers is participating with a series of articles meant to inform and educate the general public about alcohol abuse, dependence and treatment.  Considering that over 21 million Americans meet the criteria for alcohol abuse and over 53 million admit to past-month binge drinking, not to mention the many loved ones affected by each, our efforts are worthwhile.

Studies linking breast cancer to alcohol use by women have been plentiful.  Results show the average increase in risk at about 9%.  This has lead to broader studies that look at the association with all types of cancer in women, with drinking habits of 1 drink per day to alcohol dependence.

As the scope of research has widened with women, scientists have also begun similar studies on men.  To date, the focus with men has been on alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence, in non-cancer studies, usually when they enter detox and treatment facilities.

Now the Journal of the National Cancer Institute has published a study by Oxford University that included over 1 million women. Some of the results are shown below.  Any woman who drinks alcohol should stay informed on these findings, especially if there is a history of cancer in her family.

-- Begin external content --

Million Women Study Shows Even Moderate Alcohol Consumption Associated with Increased Cancer Risk

Low to moderate alcohol consumption among women is associated with a statistically significant increase in cancer risk and may account for nearly 13 percent of the cancers of the breast, liver, rectum, and upper aero-digestive tract combined, according to a report in the February 24 online issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

With the exception of breast cancer, little has been known about the impact of low to moderate alcohol consumption on cancer risk in women.

To determine the impact of alcohol on overall and site-specific cancer risk, Naomi Allen, D.Phil., of the University of Oxford, U.K., and colleagues examined the association of alcohol consumption and cancer incidence in the Million Women Study, which included 1,280,296 middle-aged women in the United Kingdom. Participants were recruited to the study between 1996 and 2001. Researchers identified cancer cases through the National Health Service Central Registries.

Women in the study who drank alcohol consumed, on average, one drink per day, which is typical in most high-income countries such as the U.K. and the U.S. Very few drank three or more drinks per day. With an average follow-up time of more than 7 years, 68,775 women were diagnosed with cancer.

The risk of any type of cancer increased with increasing alcohol consumption, as did the risk of some specific types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, rectum, and liver. Women who also smoked had an increased risk of cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx, esophagus, and larynx. The type of alcohol consumed – wine versus spirits or other types – did not alter the association between alcohol consumption and cancer risk.

Each additional alcoholic drink regularly consumed per day was associated with 11 additional breast cancers per 1000 women up to age 75; one additional cancer of the oral cavity and pharynx; one additional cancer of the rectum; and an increase of 0.7 each for esophageal, laryngeal, and liver cancers. For these cancers combined, there was an excess of about 15 cancers per 1000 women per drink per day. (The background incidence for these cancers was estimated to be 118 per 1000 women in developed countries.)

"Although the magnitude of the excess absolute risk associated with one additional drink per day may appear small for some cancer sites, the high prevalence of moderate alcohol drinking among women in many populations means that the proportion of cancers attributable to alcohol is an important public health issue," the authors write.

-- Source: http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/101/5/281-a --

Tarzana Treatment Centers in Los Angeles makes a daily effort to find treatment news articles that we can share with our readers in the alcohol and drug treatment community.  The external content was found among other articles of equal informational and educational quality.