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A large number of epidemiological studies assessing the link between alcohol consumption and risk of cancer have found strong associations for increased risk in a number of cancers, namely those of the Upper Aero Digestive Tract (oral cavity, larynx, pharynx and oesophagus (UADT)), stomach, colon and breast. The evidence is inconsistent and varies in the degree of significance for the different types of cancer (Bagnardi, 2001, Seitz et al, 2004, Poschl, 2004). For the purposes of this review, I have chosen to discuss alcohol in terms of units where 9 grams of ethanol equates 1 unit.
Alcohol consumption has been linked to a wide variety of cancers, the main ones being of the Upper Digestive Tract (UDT), stomach and colon. It has been suggested that this is due to these particular organs being subjected to the highest concentrations of alcohol and the ethanol may be to blame for carcinogenic effects leading to cancers.
Gronbaek’s study into alcohol consumption and oesophageal cancer. Gronbaek went on to suggest that the type of alcoholic beverage consumed may have an effect.
Wine has long been stated as having positive benefits for the heart and in a few recent studies has been found to be less of a risk factor in the development of cancer. So and so suggests this is due to the compound resveratol present in wine that may be found to be anti carcinogenic. The compound can not be found in beer and spirits where the negative compound thought to be carcinogenic is nitrosamines.
Although the intake of alcohol is extremely high, Castellsague et al 2004 found a similar relationship in Spain.
The study carried out in Spain suggested that non-smoking, moderate drinkers (units?) had a significant increase in developing oral cancer, and that consuming spirits may contribute to 77% of oral cancer in Spain. The same study also showed a significant increase in the risk of oral cancer when subjects smoked cigarettes and drank alcohol simultaneously. This relationship between alcohol consumption and smoking has been well documented (Djousse, 2002; Castellsague, 2004; Franceschi, 1999).
The link between alcohol consumption and smoking can make assessing cancers, such as lung cancer, difficult. The Framingham study 2002, which looked at light to moderate drinkers found no significant association with the risk of lung cancer, much like the results produced from an earlier Framingham study that also found no significance between alcohol consumption and lung cancer but did find an increased risk of stomach cancer.
The associations between type of alcoholic beverages and cancers have been addressed in several case-control (observational) studies with different results. A common feature.
A case-control study carried out in Russia found that alcohol consumption increased the odds ratio (OR) of developing stomach cancer. The result differed between sexes, and was found to be higher in men than in women. Although the study found positive correlations the results could only be attributed to liquor, particularly vodka, as this is the most commonly consumed drink in Russia. Further studies also found differences between the risk of cancers and the type of alcoholic beverage consumed. It has been suggested that wine has positive effects on reducing the risk of cancer (Renaud, 1999). The protective effects of wine were supported by Gronbaeks findings that wine does not increase the risk of UADT cancers as beers and spirits (Gronbaek 1999, 2000). However,
Recently much research has been carried out into the risk of alcohol on colon cancer and it has proved inconsistent. A Danish cohort study observed a dose-respondent relationship between alcohol and rectal cancer; however, no relationship between total alcohol consumption and colon cancer can be associated. It appears the type of alcohol beverage has much to do with the effect on colon cancer risk. The risk of rectal cancer was increased with the consumption of beer and spirits but no difference was observed with the consumption of wine (Pederson, 2003)
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