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Alcohol is responsible for 60% of breast cancer deaths

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By David Liu, PHD

Saturday Feb 16, 2013 (foodconsumer.org) -- A new study published most recently in American Journal of Public Health again reminds the public of the fact that drinking alcohol is one major factor for cancer deaths, particularly for the mortality from breast cancer and upper airway and esophageal cancer.

David E. Nelson from the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, USA and colleagues meta-analysed data published lately on the association between alcohol consumption and cancer deaths and found drinking alcohol was responsible for 3.2% to 3.7% of all U.S. Cancer death.

The study was based on meta-analyses published since 2000 and adult alcohol consumption data from a few national surveys on alcohol consumption.  The data suggested that alcohol consumption led to an estimated 18,200 to 21,300 cancer deaths, which represented 3.2 to 3.7% of all U.S. cancer deaths.

The cancers that were highly affected by alcohol consumption were breast cancer and upper airway and esophageal cancer.  Alcohol drinking was responsible for 56 to 66% of all breast cancer deaths and 53 to 71% of upper airway and esophageal cancer deaths.

And the researchers were able to estimate that alcohol-attributable cancers resulted in 17.0 to 19.1 years of potential life lost (YPLL) for each death. 

Specifically daily consumption of up to 20 grams of alcohol, or less than 1.5 drinks per day was responsible for 26 to 35% of alcohol-attributable cancer deaths.  Alcohol in any dose can cause harm and the more a person drinks, the higher his risk of developing cancer.

The researchers concluded "Alcohol remains a major contributor to cancer mortality and YPLL. Higher consumption increases risk but there is no safe threshold for alcohol and cancer risk. Reducing alcohol consumption is an important and underemphasized cancer prevention strategy."

Alcoholic beverages have been recognized as a human carcinogen by the National Toxicology Program although the majority of the public may not be aware of risk from alcohol.
In the United States, one in eight women are expected to develop breast cancer in their life time.  Each year, 37000 women in the U.S. die from breast cancer.

Alcohol has been recognized as a significant risk factor for breast cancer.  Breast cancer in many cases is preventable.

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