Study: Moderate Alcohol Intake Can Increase the Risk of Cancer for Women

February 27, 2009

If you're a woman, you might want to think twice before you have one glass of wine or beer a day. According to the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, a study conducted by the University of Oxford shows that low to moderate alcohol consumption in women increases the risk of certain cancers.

With the exception of breast cancer, little is known about the effect of moderate intakes of alcohol or of particular types of alcohol on cancer risk in women. The study in the U.K. aimed to find that out.

A total of 1,280,296 middle-aged women in the United Kingdom enrolled in the Million Women Study. They were routinely followed for incident cancer by the Cancer Epidemiology Unit at the University of Oxford.

Cox regression models were used to calculate adjusted relative risks and 95% confidence intervals for 21 site-specific cancers according to amount and type of alcoholic beverage consumed. All statistical tests were two-sided.

The study shows that for every additional drink regularly consumed per day, the increase in incidence up to age 75 years per 1,000 for women in developed countries is estimated to be about 11 for breast cancer, 1 for cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx, 1 for cancer of the rectum, and 0.7 each for cancers of the esophagus, larynx and liver. That means a total of 15 cancers per 1,000 women up to 75 years old.

A quarter of the research group reported drinking no alcohol; 98% of drinkers consumed fewer than 21 drinks per week, with drinkers consuming an average of one drink per day.

Increasing alcohol consumption was associated with increased risks of cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx, esophagus, larynx, rectum, liver, and breast. The trends were similar in women who drank wine exclusively.

For more information on the study, click here.

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