Despite those stories about red wine curing all sorts of ills that pop up regularly in the health magazines and the internet, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Office for Disease Control and Prevention still don't recommend that anyone who isn't drinking should start. Nor are they likely to, following a new study that shows how alcohol causes seven forms of cancer, and people consuming even low to moderate amounts are at risk.
Everyone knows about the connection between liver cancer and alcohol consumption. But the association between drinking and cancer of the liver and six other organs – oropharynx, larynx, oesophagus, colon, rectum and breast – is new.
More than simply a link or statistical association between alcohol and cancer, the study upholds that there is enough credible evidence to say conclusively that drinking is a direct cause of cancer.
"There is strong evidence that alcohol causes cancer at seven sites in the body and probably others," writes Jennie Connor, of the preventive and social medicine department at Otago University in New Zealand, in her conclusion. “Even without complete knowledge of biological mechanisms [of how alcohol causes cancer], the epidemiological evidence can support the judgment.”
Connor cautions that even drinking alcohol in small quantities – such as a glass or two of wine – puts you at risk for cancer. Though heavy drinkers are in greater jeopardy, the researcher says that everyone should cut down on their consumption, regardless of how great or small it currently is.
“The highest risks are associated with the heaviest drinking but a considerable burden is experienced by drinkers with low to moderate consumption, due to the distribution of drinking in the population,” Connor said.
The correlation may even go past these first seven cancers. Connor sees a dose-response” relationship between alcohol and cancers of the skin, prostate and pancreas as well.
On a brighter note, Connor's research found some evidence that drinkers who gave up alcohol could reverse their risk of laryngeal, pharyngeal and liver cancer, and that their risk reduced the longer they avoided alcohol.