Alcohol May Lead to Cancer in Women

February 25/Belfast, Ireland/Belfast Telegraph -- Women who have just one alcoholic drink each day increase their risk of cancer, according to a new study.

Consuming one drink a day causes an extra 7,000 cancer cases in women in the U.K. each year, researchers found.

Around 5,000 of these cases are related to breast cancer but others are cancers of the rectum, liver, mouth and throat.

Researchers from the University of Oxford examined data for more than a million middle-aged women taken from the Million Women Study.

They found that, among drinkers, consuming one drink a day increased the risk of all types of cancer by 6% by the time women were 75.

The rates for individual cancers varied, with one drink a day causing a 12% rise in the risk of breast cancer and a 44% rise in cancer of the larynx.

For each additional drink up to a maximum of three a day, the percentage risk doubled for each type of cancer.

For example, women who drank two drinks a day had a 24% increased risk of breast cancer and an 88% increased risk of cancer of the larynx.

The researchers calculated each drink to be 10g of alcohol. In the U.K., a standard measure of alcohol is 8g, but a 10g equivalent would be a small glass (125ml) of 10% ABV (alcohol by volume) wine or a 330ml bottle of beer at 4% ABV.

Dr. Naomi Allen, cancer epidemiologist at the University of Oxford and lead author, said the study looked specifically at women who consumed low to moderate levels of alcohol -- three drinks a day or fewer.

"These findings suggest that even relatively low levels of drinking -- about one or two alcoholic drinks every day -- increase a woman's risk of developing cancer of the breast, liver and rectum, and in smokers, cancers of the mouth and throat."

The researchers found it did not matter what women drank, it was the amount consumed which increased the risk.

For example, women who drank only wine were found to have a similar risk of developing cancer as those who consumed other alcoholic drinks.

Sara Hiom, at Cancer Research U.K., said, "It is important that women are as well informed as possible so they can take responsible decisions over how much alcohol they drink."

The study was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.  

From the February 16, 2009, Prepared Foods E-dition