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Alcohol Blamed for 1 in Every 30 Cancer Deaths

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WebMD News from HealthDay

By Steven Reinberg

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Feb. 14 (HealthDay News) -- For anyone who still thinks that drinking does not contribute to cancer, a new report finds that alcohol is to blame for one in every 30 cancer deaths each year in the United States.

The connection is even more pronounced with breast cancer, with 15 percent of those deaths related to alcohol consumption, the researchers added.

And don't think that drinking in moderation will help, because 30 percent of all alcohol-related cancer deaths are linked to drinking 1.5 drinks or less a day, the report found.

Alcohol is a cancer-causing agent that's in "plain sight," but people just don't see it, said study author Dr. David Nelson, director of the Cancer Prevention Fellowship Program at the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

"As expected, people who are higher alcohol users were at higher risk, but there was really no safe level of alcohol use," he stressed.

Moderate drinking has been associated with heart benefits, Nelson noted. "But, in the broader context of all the issues and all the problems that alcohol is related to, alcohol causes 10 times as many deaths as it prevents," he said.

The best thing people who believe they are at risk for cancer can do is reduce their alcohol consumption, Nelson said. "From a cancer prevention perspective, the less you drink, the lower your risk of an alcohol-related cancer and, obviously, if one doesn't drink at all then that's the lowest risk," he said.

The report was published online Feb. 14 in the American Journal of Public Health.

To determine the risks related to drinking and cancer, Nelson's team compiled data from a variety of sources, including the 2009 Alcohol Epidemiologic Data System, the 2009 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and the 2009-2010 National Alcohol Survey.

Along with breast cancer in women, cancers of the mouth, throat and esophagus were also common causes of alcohol-related cancer deaths in men, accounting for about 6,000 deaths each year.

Each alcohol-related cancer death accounted for an average of 18 years of potential life lost, the researchers added.

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