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Study: Light drinking may increase cancer risk by nearly 20 percent

A new study suggests that even light alcohol consumption may increase overall cancer risk when compared to people who do not drink at all.

By Brian P. Dunleavy
Study: Light drinking may increase cancer risk by nearly 20 percent
A study of adults in Japan reveals higher cancer risk among current and former drinkers. File photo by Concord90/Pixabay

Dec. 9 (UPI) -- The holidays may be a time for celebration, but the findings of a new study put a might damper on that good cheer.

In a study published Monday by the journal Cancer, researchers found that even light to moderate alcohol consumption among adults in Japan was associated with elevated cancer risk.

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In all, the authors report, risk for cancer was 18 percent higher among current and former drinkers, while the overall cancer risk appeared to be the lowest at zero alcohol consumption.

"Given the current burden of overall cancer incidence, we should further encourage promoting public education about alcohol-related cancer risk," study co-author Masayoshi Zaitsu, a researcher with the University of Tokyo and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, said in a statement.

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To derive their estimates, Zaitsu and his colleagues examined clinical data on 63,232 people with cancer and 63,232 healthy controls matched for gender, age, hospital admission date and admitting hospital from 2005 to 2016. Data for the study was obtained from 33 general hospitals located throughout Japan.

All study participants self-reported their average daily alcohol consumption and the duration of their drinking. Defining a drink as one six-ounce cup of Japanese sake, one 17-ounce bottle or can of beer, one six-ounce glass of wine or one two-ounce glass of whiskey.

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The study found that current and former drinkers were more than four times as likely than non-drinkers to develop esophageal cancer and more than twice as likely to develop cancer of the larynx.

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Risk for liver and colon cancer was more than 30 percent higher in drinkers than in non-drinkers, while risk for stomach and breast cancer was more than 20 percent higher among alcohol consumers.

Cancer is the number one cause of death in the Asian nation, Zaitsu said. In the United States, cancer is second after heart disease.

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