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Alcohol consumption associated with at least seven types of cancer: study

August 2, 2016

Dunedin, New Zealand – Alcohol is believed to cause at least seven types of cancer “and probably others,” but the risk of some cancers drops if an individual stops drinking for several years, according to a report from the University of Otago.

Researchers reviewed epidemiological and biological research on alcohol and cancer from the Medline database and International Agency for Research and Cancer archives, as well as other epidemiological studies. They found that alcohol was associated with cancer of the oropharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, colon, rectum and breast, and the risk of cancer likely was not affected by the type of alcohol consumed.

Quitting the consumption of alcohol, though, appears to reverse the increased risk of developing some cancers. Researchers found that people who quit drinking for five years experienced a 15 percent decrease in risk for laryngeal and pharyngeal cancers. After 30 years, the risk level dropped to that of a non-drinker. People who stopped drinking also saw a six to seven percent decrease in the risk of the most common type of liver cancer.

A populationwide decrease in alcohol consumption – rather than targeting the heaviest drinkers alone – is likely to have the greatest effect on public health, the researchers said.

The report was published online July 21 in the journal Addiction.