Cheers Against Blood Cancers

Blood cancer risks may decrease with alcohol consumption

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) You’ve probably heard that red wine is good for you. And maybe you’ve also heard that drinking can increase your risks of specific types of cancer. A recent review puts a checkmark in the “alcohol-healthy” column.

A recent study involving more than a million women found that moderate drinking lowered the risks of lymphomas (cancers of the lymph system) and plasma cell cancers.

These researchers believe that alcohol doesn’t affect other blood cancers, including acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

"Be honest about your alcohol consumption."

British researchers used data from the Million Women's Study in the UK, which involved 1.3 million middle-aged women who were followed for roughly 10 years, from 1996 to 2009. Risk factors were judged according to a questionnaire the women completed.

During the study period, 9,162 blood cancers developed among the participants.

The study found that moderate drinkers had lower risks of lymphomas, including diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (a 15 percent lower risk per 10 g alcohol per day compared to the average woman's risk of the cancer); follicular lymphoma (14 percent lower risk compared to normal) and plasma cell neoplasms (14 percent lower risk compared to normal). 

Follicular lymphoma is a type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma that affects the immune system. Plasma cell neoplasms form tumors in the bones or soft tissues of the body.

Smoking had just the opposite effect. For every 10 cigarettes smoked a day, the women had about a 45 percent increased risk of Hodgkin's lymphoma, 38 percent increased risk of cancers involving T-cells, and a 42 percent greater chance of developing myeloid cancers having to do with the blood cell production.

These risks are all relative to the average person's risk for these diseases.

The authors concluded, “These findings confirm and extend existing evidence for associations of subtypes of hematological [blood] malignancy with two common exposures in women.”

This study was published November 13 in the British Journal of Cancer.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 19, 2012
Last Updated:
April 22, 2013