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New study warns: Just one drink a day can boost a woman's cancer risk

by , 21 August 2015

Ladies, put down your glass - now! A new study of 136,000 adults has found that just one or two drinks a day can increase your risk of certain cancers!

Lead investigator Yin Cao of the nutrition department at Harvard's TH Chan School of Public Health in Boston, US, reported: “Our study reinforces the dietary guidelines that it's important not to go beyond one drink per day for women.”

The study didn't prove that drinking raises cancer risk though, Cao notes. It only showed an association. Keep reading to learn more - by the end of this article you might want to adjust how many glasses of wine you enjoy after work each day!

How a woman can determine how much is safe for her to drink each day

Determining whether to drink and how much should take into account your smoking history, family history of alcohol-related cancers and your risk of heart disease, Cao said. 
 
Besides breast cancer, alcohol-related cancers include colon, liver, oral, throat and oesophagus cancer.
 
Women should weigh the modest increased risk of alcohol-related cancers, primarily breast cancer, against the potential benefits of alcohol in preventing heart disease, Cao suggested. (The American Heart Association says heart disease is less common among people who drink lightly or moderately than among teetotallers. However, alcohol consumption is associated to other health dangers such as high blood pressure).
 

What the study found out about light drinking and cancer risk in women

For the report, published online earlier this week in the BMJ, Cao’s team used data from two studies of health professionals in the United States: the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study.

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During up to 30 years of follow-up, more than 19,000 women and nearly 7,600 men developed cancers, according to the report.
 
The researchers found that light to moderate drinking was not associated with a statistically significant increased risk for cancers overall.
 
And among men who had never smoked, risk of alcohol-related cancers didn’t increase significantly. However, the risk rose for men who had smoked, the researchers found.
 
In contrast, even women who had never smoked had an increased risk of alcohol-related cancers — mainly breast cancer — with one drink a day.
 

Drink less alcohol and protect yourself against cancer

One drink (14 g of alcohol) is the equivalent of about a 120 ml glass of wine or a 450 ml bottle of beer in the United States, the researchers said.
 
To isolate the effect of alcohol, Cao and colleagues accounted for other factors, including age, ethnicity, weight, family history of cancer, physical activity and diet.
 
“Alcohol can cause cancer, even at levels of light to moderate drinking. The present study reinforces this statement,” Rehm said.
 
Drinking causes almost 4% of all cancers worldwide and a similar proportion of cancer deaths in the United States, the researchers wrote in background notes.
 
If you want to reduce your risk for cancer, curb your drinking, advised Rehm, who wrote an accompanying journal editorial.
 
“Less drinking is better,” he said. “Limit your consumption of alcohol.”

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