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New ACS study says drinking accounts for 3.2% of cancer deaths in the U.S.

A new study finds that alcohol consumption accounts for a considerable portion of cancer incidence and mortality in the U.S. The article, which appears in Cancer Epidemiology, states that in the U.S. on average, alcohol consumption accounts for 4.8% of cancer cases and 3.2% of cancer deaths.

This study led by Farhad Islami, MD, PhD, is the first to estimate contemporary proportions and counts of alcohol-attributable cancer cases and deaths for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.  Nationally, alcohol consumption accounted for an estimated 75,200 cancer cases and 18,950 cancer deaths annually during 2013 to 2016. Data shows the proportions were generally higher in New England and Western states and lower in Midwestern and Southern states.

“This information is important for prioritizing state-level cancer prevention and control efforts to reduce alcohol consumption and help reduce this cancer burden,” Farhad said.

The study finds that overall alcohol-related cancer cases were slightly higher among women than men, reflecting the association of alcohol consumption with increased risk for female breast cancer. The authors say, “healthcare providers and public health practitioners can educate the community to expand the currently limited awareness of the cancer-related risks of alcohol consumption.” 

The ACS guideline for Diet and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention states that it is best not to consume alcohol; for those who do drink, consumption should be limited to no more than 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men.

The study notes that concurrent tobacco use and alcohol consumption appears to increase the risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, and esophagus more than the independent effect of either behavior alone. Research is needed to better understand cancer burden resulting from the combined effect of tobacco use and alcohol consumption. 

Article: Sauer AG, Fedewa SA, Bandi P, Minihan AK, Stoklosa M, Drope J, Gapstur SM, Jemal A, Islami F. Proportion of cancer cases and deaths attributable to alcohol consumption by US state, 2013-2016. Cancer Epidemiology, 2021. doi: 10.1016/j.canep.2021.101893. 

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