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Alcohol remains a major preventable cause of cancer death

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Feb. 25, 2013

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Despite public health efforts to reduce binge drinking and alcohol abuse in the U.S., alcohol consumption continues to be a leading preventable cause of cancer death, according to a study published online Feb. 14 in the American Journal of Public Health.

Alcohol use accounted for 3.5% of cancer deaths in 2009, or about 19,500 people, the study concluded. Although higher levels of alcohol consumption led to a higher cancer risk, an average consumption of 1.5 drinks per day or fewer accounted for 30% of alcohol-attributable cancer deaths.

Fifteen percent of breast cancer deaths among U.S. women were attributable to alcohol consumption, the study said. Among men, cancers of the esophagus, mouth and throat were the most common causes of alcohol-attributable cancer mortality (link).

Researchers examined multiple sources of national data on alcohol consumption and cancer mortality, including the Alcohol Epidemiologic Data System and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.

The study encourages medical and public health organizations to issue statements emphasizing that alcohol is a human carcinogen and recommending that people decrease or avoid alcohol consumption to reduce their cancer risk.

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