Increased Alcohol Consumption in Men Linked to Cancer

There is a dearth of information on the relationship between alcohol and total cancer risk. Spurred by this, researchers in Finland carried out a study to examine this relationship. On analyzing data from a population-based study of 2,627 men from Eastern Finland, it was seen that the risk of cancer increased with alcohol use; around 6.7 percent of the cancer patients in this study were linked to alcohol use. The researchers state, “We observe a linear relationship between alcohol consumption and cancer.”

The burden of cancer on disease management and health resources is escalating each year. Regarding the incidence of cancer, the authors foresee an increase from the “estimated 10 million new cases in the year 2000 to an estimated 15 million new cases by the year 2020.” About 3.6 percent of the total incidences of cancer worldwide are attributed to alcohol consumption. However, alcohol consumption is known to be a risk factor to only certain cancers. Its association with many other cancers is still unclear. A few earlier studies have reported increased risk of cancer for both alcohol-related cancers and non-alcohol-related cancers. Therefore, this study was done to determine the relationship between alcohol consumption and overall cancer risk among men.

* The study population consisted of 2,627 men, who were a part of an ongoing Ischemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study. They were between the ages 42 and 60, at the beginning of the study.
* For the next 20 to 25 years, i.e. until December 31, 2008, they were followed-up on and the frequency, type and amount of alcohol consumed were noted with the help of questionnaires as well as blood tests.
* The participants were statistically divided into five groups, based on the average amount of alcohol consumed.
* All cancer cases diagnosed among the men under study were accessed from the Finnish Cancer Registry (FCR) and recorded.

* Men with the highest alcohol consumption had the highest basal metabolic index (BMI) and blood sugar among the group, while they were found to consume less fruits and berries in their diet.
* Men who had the lowest consumption of alcohol had the highest intake of energy and ate more fruits and berries. On the other hand, they were found to exercise less and eat fewer vegetables.
* The incidence rate for cancer among men with the highest alcohol consumption was 141 per 10,000 people, compared to 97 per 10,000 among those with least alcohol consumption.
* Nearly 7 percent of the total cases of cancer were attributed to high alcohol use.

In this study, the assessment of alcohol consumption was based on a questionnaire; there could have been errors related to underreporting or other misclassification. Secondly, only men were included in this study; these results cannot be generalized to women. Besides, this study considered total cancer cases and not cancers of specific sites. Considering that some kinds of cancer are particularly related to alcohol use, the results might be different if specific cancers were studied in this regard.

Most of the cancers identified in this study were prostate and lung cancer, both of which lack evidence linking alcohol consumption to their origin. Thus it is quite clear from this study that alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk of cancer among men. The origin of cancers considered “non-alcohol-related” must be investigated further. Men who consumed around 28.2 g of alcohol in a day had an increased risk of cancer, compared to the men who consumed less. Nonetheless, European countries recommend daily alcohol consumption to be no more than 20 to 30 grams. “Strategies to reduce cancer burden need to incorporate reduction in alcohol consumption, probably beyond the level currently recommended.”

For More Information:
The Impact of Alcohol Consumption on the Risk of Cancer among Men
Publication Journal: European Journal of Cancer, May 2010
By Adetunji T. Toriola; Sudhir Kurl; National Institute for Health and Welfare, Finland; Institute of Public Health and Clinical Nutrition, University of Kuopio/University of Eastern Finland and Research Institute of Public Health, University of Kuopio/University of Eastern Finland

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