Are drinking alcohol and risk of dying from cancer connected? We know that heavy alcohol drinking is associated with increased risk of developing cancer of the mouth, pharynx, and larynx. We also know and that moderate drinking is associated with a slight increase in the risk of breast cancer.
On the other hand, we also know that moderate drinking is associated with reduced risk of developing thyroid cancer. Also lymphoma, kidney (renal) cancer, and certain other cancers.
Researchers wanted to know the connections between alcohol and risk of dying from cancer. To do so, they made a meta-analysis of 18 prospective cohort studies. These 18 studies all followed people over time. During those periods, almost 50,000 people died from different causes..
This enabled the researchers to compare those who died from cancer with those who didn’t. One of the many things they looked at was alcohol consumption. Thus, they were able to place people into different consumption levels.
I. Drinkers who had up to about one drink per day. They called these “light drinkers.” However, U.S. federal guidelines would call drinking at that level by women moderate drinking. Men who are moderate drinkers could have up to two daily drinks.
These drinkers had a 9% lower risk of dying from cancer. That’s in comparison with non-drinkers or occasional drinkers.
II. Drinkers who had up to about four and one-third drinks per day. The researchers called these moderate drinkers. U.S. guidelines would call men moderate drinkers only up to two drinks per day. Beyond that, they would be called heavy drinkers or alcohol abusers.
These drinkers had no increase in risk.
III. Drinkers who had over about four and one-third drinks per day. The researchers called these heavy drinkers. They had a higher risk than non-drinkers or occasional drinkers.
Thus, this study found an increase in all-cancer mortality. But it was only among those who had over about four and one-third drinks per day. Of course, that’s much higher that U.S. federal guidelines.
Resources: Alcohol and Risk of Dying from Cancer
Duhig, H. Understanding Cancer. NY: PowerKids, 2019. (Juv)
Eating Hints: Before, During and after Cancer Treatment. Bethesda: NIH, 2011.
Scotting, P., et al. Cancer. NY: Oneworld, 2017.
Sessions, R. The Cancer Experience: the Doctor, the Patient, the Journey. Latham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2012.
When Your Parent has Cancer: a Guide for Teens. Bethesda: NIH, 2012.
When Someone You Love is Being Treated for Cancer: Support for Caregivers. Bethesda: NIH, 2010.
When Someone You Love Has Advanced Cancer: Support for Caregivers. Bethesda: NIH, 2014.
Jin, M. et al. Alcohol drinking and all-cancer mortality: a meta-analysis. Annals of /Oncology, 2013, 24, 807-816.