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Even a little alcohol can raise your risk of getting cancer, study finds

alcohol cancer risk

Over the years, there has been no shortage of studies focused on alcohol consumption. Some studies suggest there are benefits to moderate consumption of alcohol on a regular or semi-regular basis, while others warn of the many potential dangers. A new study published in the journal Cancer falls squarely in the latter category.

The research, which was published Monday, December 9th, focused on the impact of regular alcohol consumption on the risk of developing cancer. Unfortunately for those of us who enjoy a cocktail here and there, even casual drinking on a limited basis seems to be tied to an increase in cancer.

The study included health data from over 120,000 individuals in Japan, using self-reported information on alcohol consumption. A “drink,” in this case, was classified as six ounces of sake, one bottle of beer, six ounces of wine, or two ounces of whiskey. Those who are currently regular drinkers or who drank regularly in their past were much more likely to be diagnosed with certain kinds of cancer, including cancer of the esophagus and larynx. Esophageal cancer, in particular, was over four times more likely in regular drinkers than in those who abstain from alcohol.

Other cancers, including those of the mouth, colon, and liver, were between 30% and 56% more likely in individuals who were classified as drinkers. The amount of alcohol a person drinks also proved to be an important factor, with the risks decreasing as average alcohol consumption waned. Those who never drink fared better than everyone else in the study.

“In Japan, overall cancer risk appeared to be the lowest at zero alcohol consumption, with a modest increase in overall cancer risk at light to moderate levels for the total amount of lifetime alcohol consumption,” the researchers write. “The risk associated with light to moderate levels for the total amount of lifetime alcohol consumption appeared to similarly matter across sexes and different drinking and smoking behaviors or occupational classes in that country.”

It’s an interesting study, and while it might seem a bit troubling to anyone who likes to wind down after work with a beer or cocktail of some sort, it’s worth noting that this data is specific to the Japanese population. The same may well be true for Europeans and other populations in the West, but this study can’t make that declaration.