A massive study by the prestigious University of Oxford reveals that drinking just one alcoholic drink a day, including a glass of wine, may significantly raise your risk of cancer.
Researchers at the University of Oxford collected data on over 1.3 million people and found that just drinking a glass of wine a day caused approximately 7,000 additional cancer cases in women – with most cases being breast cancer. The study, which used data on over a million women, showed that the risk increases even more substantially the more you drink. It found that 5,000 cases of breast cancer -- about 11 percent of the 45,000 cases reported in the UK -- were directly attributable to alcohol consumption.
The study examined in particular women who consumed low to moderate levels of alcohol which is defined as three drinks a day or fewer. The study, which lasted seven years, found that nearly a quarter of the 1.3 million women surveyed don't drink at all. The remaining women mostly consumed 21 drinks per week or less, around 10g of alcohol per day -- the amount of alcohol found in a glass of wine.
Over 70,000 of the women developed cancer, and a correlation between consumption of alcohol and cancer arose. Overall, one drink a day raised a woman's cancer risk by 6 percent in women up to the age of 75.
For some cancers, though, the rise was much higher. For breast cancer, the risk rose 12 percent; for rectal cancer it rose 10 percent; for gullet cancer it rose 22 percent; for mouth cancer it rose 29 percent; and for throat cancer it rose 44 percent.
For a population of 1,000 women, this means that 15 extra cases of these cancers -- comprising 11 breast, one mouth, one rectal cancer and 0.7 each for cancers of the gullet, throat and liver -- would arise.
The location of these cancers -- in areas closely exposed to ingested chemicals -- the digestive tract, fatty tissues (such as breast), and the liver, which breaks down alcohol strengthens the evidence that spirits are indeed to culprit for the increase in cancer rates. Alcohol is thought to act as an agent creating exogenous DNA damage, through radical or epoxide reactions.
The study's authors say that no amount of alcohol consumption is safe, but they suggest that women at least limit their consumption to two to three units per day and men limit it to three to four units per day to reduce their risk.
Dr. Naomi Allen, lead author of the report says it punches holes in the poorly supported myths that a glass of wine a day is beneficial. She states, "The findings of this report show quite strongly that even low levels of drinking that were regarded to be safe do increase cancer risk. About 5 percent of all cancers in the UK are due to drinking something in the order of one alcoholic drink a day. It is up to individual people to make their own decision. All of us to some extent have to weigh up the risks and take some responsibility for our health."
Dr. Sarah Cant of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, not associated with the study, comments, "We already know that drinking alcohol can increase your risk of breast cancer. This study suggests that for women over 50 even drinking moderate amounts of any type of alcohol can have many health consequences, including a greater chance of developing breast cancer. Around 80 percent of breast cancer cases are diagnosed in women aged over 50, so limiting how much you drink is one step you can take to try to reduce your risk of developing the disease."