Study confirms alcohol consumption causes cancer

A new large-scale genetic study has shown that alcohol consumption is directly linked to cancer incidence. Data show that alcohol consumption is responsible for at least 400,000 cancer deaths each year around the world.

Evidence from studies carried out in Western countries has already shown that alcohol has a strong link with cases of cancer of the head, neck, esophagus, liver, colon and breast. However, there is a difficulty in defining whether these types of cancer are linked only to the consumption of alcoholic beverages.

All these types of tumors are linked to possible confounding factors and may have other causes, such as smoking and a diet low in nutrients and high in salt, sugar and fat. This also occurs in other types of cancer, such as lung and stomach.

low tolerance gene

Other factors, such as smoking, were not statistically relevant within the study. Fongbeerredhot – Shutterstock

To reduce this confusion, teams from Peking University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, both in China, and Oxford Population Health, decided to investigate which genetic variants were linked to lower alcohol consumption in Asian populations.

In Chinese and other East Asian populations, two genetic variants have been found that reduce alcohol tolerability. Both are strongly linked to lower alcohol intake, as they cause an effect known as 'flushing', which is quite unpleasant.

The researchers then studied DNA samples from about 150,000 people, 60,000 men and 90,000 women. It is worth mentioning that, in China, alcohol consumption is a predominantly male habit, and it is quite rare to find women who drink regularly.

Analysis focused on men

In an analysis focused on men, researchers found that men who had one or both genes for low alcohol tolerance were between 13% and 25% less likely to develop cancer. This chance was even lower for alcohol-related cancers.

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In general, men with low alcohol tolerance genes do not drink or drink very little. As a result, they are 14% less likely to develop any type of cancer and 31% less likely to develop cancer of the head and neck, esophagus, colon, rectum and liver.

The results remained the same when the data were adjusted for other risk factors such as smoking, diet, physical activity, obesity and a family history of cancer. However, in men who drank even with the low tolerance gene, the incidence of cancer increased.

Via: Oxford Population Health

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