Alcohol Drinking and Colorectal Cancer

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Alcohol consumption is one of the most important known risk factors for human cancers and potentially one of the largest avoidable factors.  It has been estimated that 5.2% of all cancers in men and 1.7% of all cancers in women in 2002 were attributable to alcohol drinking worldwide in 2002.  Intake of alcohol is causally related to cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, female breast and colorectum.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has concluded that alcohol consumption is related to colorectal cancer (CRC). However, it is unclear what level of alcohol consumption constitutes an increase risk of developing colorectal cancer. 

A study published in the Annals of Oncology addressed this question by looking at prior studies that evaluated the relationship between frequency of alcohol consumption and the risk of colorectal cancer.  

The researchers found that individuals who drank 2-3 drinks of alcohol per day had a 1.2 times more likely to develop colorectal cancer than non-drinkers.  The risk was even higher for heavy drinkers; individuals who drank more than 4 drinks of alcohol per day were 1.5 times more likely to develop colorectal cancer. 

Furthermore, the more you drink each day, the more likely you are going to develop colorectal cancer.  Based on their analysis, he relative risk of developing colorectal cancer after drinking 10, 0 and 100g of alcohol per day was 1.07, 1.38 and 1.82 respectively. 

This analysis provides strong evidence that alcohol drinking of >1 drink/day is related to colorectal cancer.  The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) recommends men to limit alcoholic drinks to 2 times per day and women to once per day. 

Source: Annals of Oncology, February 9, 2001 

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