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25 February 2008
As little as one alcoholic drink a day appears to increase a woman's odds of developing several forms of cancer, a British study published has found.
The findings published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute show the risks of alcohol may outweigh any potential heart benefits associated with moderate drinking, researchers added.
"These findings suggest that even low levels of drinking increase a woman's risk of developing cancer of the breast, liver and rectum, and in smokers, cancers of the mouth and throat," Naomi Allen of the University of Oxford, who led the study, said in a statement.
Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, killing 7.9 million people each year, according to the World Health Organisation.
Lung, stomach, liver, colon and breast tumours are the biggest killers.
Previous studies have linked alcohol to an increased risk of breast cancer and doctors know that heavy drinking boosts the odds of developing other cancers.
"From a standpoint of cancer risk, the message of this report could not be clearer," Michael Lauer and Paul Sorlie of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in the United States, who were not involved in the study, wrote in a commentary.
"There is no level of alcohol consumption that can be considered safe."
Allen's team found that low-to-moderate consumption may account for nearly 13% of breast, liver, rectal, and mouth and throat cancers, with the type of alcohol consumed making no difference.
Her team analysed health data taken from national health registries of more than one million middle-aged women in Britain asked to take part in a study between 1996 and 2001.
For every additional daily drink a woman consumed, her risk of developing cancer rose six percent, the researchers said.
For breast cancer, a daily tipple upped the odds by 12%.
"The high prevalence of moderate alcohol drinking among women in many populations means that the proportion of cancers attributable to alcohol is an important public health issue," Allen's team wrote.
Because most of the extra cases were breast cancer, more research is needed to see how moderate drinking affects a man's cancer risk, Allen added in a telephone interview.
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