Alcohol, a Leading Cause of Cancer Death
Studies have shown that alcohol consumption is linked to many types of cancers, including cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, breast, liver, colon and rectum. It is estimated that it accounts for about 4% of deaths due to cancer worldwide. Timothy Naimi, MD, MPH, from the Department of Medicine at BUSM and colleagues from the National Cancer Institute, the Alcohol Research Group, Public Health Institute and the Center for Addiction and Mental Health report that about 20,000 cancer deaths related to alcohol intake occur annually in the US. This accounts for 3.5% of all deaths due to cancer.
The researchers further report that breast cancer was the most common cause of cancer deaths in women related to alcohol consumption. These account for about 6,000 deaths annually, equivalent to 15% of all breast cancer deaths. Among men, cancers of the mouth, throat and esophagus were the more common causes of alcohol-related cancer deaths, equivalent to about 6,000 deaths yearly.
The researchers noted that each cancer death related to alcohol consumption accounts for an average of 18 years of life lost. Furthermore, they found that although higher levels of alcohol intake led to a greater cancer risk, consumption of 1½ drinks per day or even less led to 30% of all alcohol-related cancer deaths.
Their findings, which they published in the American Journal of Public Health, suggest that reducing alcohol consumption is potentially an important cancer prevention strategy, since alcohol is a known carcinogen (cancer-producing substance) even when taken in small quantities.
Boston University Medical Center. Alcohol consumption is a leading preventable cause of cancer death in U.S., experts say. ScienceDaily.