Women who regularly consume one or two alcoholic drinks each day have a notably higher chance of developing cancers compared to women who do not drink regularly, says a new report from Cancer Research UK.

The risk increases significantly for breast, liver and rectum cancers, says the report. A woman smoker who regularly consumes one or two alcohol drinks per day also has a significantly higher chance of developing mouth and throat cancers compared to a female smoker who does not drink regularly. The report did not compare mouth and throat cancer risks between female smokers and non-smokers.

According to the researchers, British women who drink alcohol consume an average of one alcoholic drink per day – this consumption is similar to that found among alcohol-consuming women in other developed nations. Approximately 118 of these cancers are diagnosed for every 1,000 women up to that age of 75 in industrialized countries. The researchers say that there would be 15 extra cancer cases per 1,000 women up to 75 years of age for every additional regularly consumed alcoholic drink.

13% of cancers of the breast, liver, rectum, mouth and throat are caused by alcohol consumption, say the authors of the report.

Approximately 11% of breast cancer cases in the UK can be attributed to women’s consumption of alcohol, say the researchers (5,000 out of 45,000 each year).

Cancer Research UK researchers at the University of Oxford’s cancer epidemiology unit studied data from more than a million middle-aged women from the Million Women Study.

Dr Naomi Allen, lead study author, said: “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 stressed that the raised cancer risk did not depend on what kind of alcohol was drunk – only the amount. For example, women who drank wine exclusively had a similar risk of developing cancer as those who drank other alcoholic beverages or a mixture of drinks.

Among the women studied, fewer than 2% regularly drank more than three drinks per day. The study included 68,775 cases of cancer, registered over 7.2 years of follow-up.

Sara Hiom, director of health information at Cancer Research UK, said: “We know that too much alcohol increases the risk of a number of cancers. This latest study shows that even relatively low levels of drinking increase a woman’s risk. It is important that women are as well informed as possible so they can take responsible decisions over how much alcohol they drink. Cancer Research UK recommends that the more you cut down on alcohol, the more you reduce your cancer risk. The more you drink the greater the risk.”

Source – Cancer Research UK

Written by – Christian Nordqvist