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What causes 5.8% of deadly cancer worldwide?

By: Kate Eller, health enews, a news service from Advocate Health Care

5.8 percent of the world’s cancer deaths can be attributed to drinking, according to a new study conducted at the department of preventive and social medicine at the University of Otago in New Zealand.

Published in the journal Addiction, Jennie Connor’s research shows that drinking is basically a direct cause of at least seven types of cancers. “There is strong evidence that alcohol causes cancer at seven sites in the body and probably others, including head and neck cancer. Current estimates suggest that alcohol-attributable cancers at these sites make up 5.8 percent of all cancer deaths world-wide,” the study summarizes. “Confirmation of specific biological mechanisms by which alcohol increases the incidence of each type of cancer is not required to infer that alcohol is a cause,” states Connor.

“Although we have no clear scientific explanation to how alcohol causes cancer on the cellular and biological level, we can’t ignore the epidemiological evidence (the study of the causes of disease events in populations) of the association between alcohol and the increased frequency of these types of cancers in alcoholic consumers,” says Dr. Mufaddal Hamadeh, a medical oncologist affiliated with Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, Ill.

“While this research is different than the strong scientific evidence on how nicotine causes cancer on the cellular level, lack of strong data about alcohol and cancer is not a reason to ignore the observed relationship between these cancers and alcohol,” Dr. Hamedeh cautions.

Connor’s research identifies the following seven cancers as ones you have a better chance of avoiding by abstaining from alcohol, or by closely monitoring your alcohol consumption:

  • Liver Cancer
  • Colon Cancer and Rectal Cancer (Colorectal Cancer)
  • Breast Cancer
  • Laryngeal cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Oropharynx Cancer

“While not all cancers are preventable, there is enough research to suggest that lifestyle choices can play a part in increasing or lowering your risk of certain types of cancers,” says Dr. Hamadeh. “If you don’t drink alcohol, there are no health benefits that outweigh potential risks. If you choose to enjoy an alcoholic beverage from time to time, proceed with caution. Anything over 5–8 ounces per day could increase your risk for certain types of cancers.”

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