Drink up Your Colon Cancer Risk

Colorectal cancer risk linked to alcohol consumption

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(RxWiki News) A long-standing Harvard study of 135,151 people over a 20-year period has given researchers a lot of data to work with. The most recent of these findings involves the relationship between alcohol and colon cancer.

Data analysis of the study has shown a link between alcohol consumption and colon cancer risk.

Specifically, subjects with a family history of colon cancer who consumed more than 30 grams of alcohol (2 1/2 drinks) per day -had an increased risk, especially when combined with smoking, a diet high in red meat and low in vegetables.

"Talk to your doctor about your level of alcohol consumption."

The study was authored by a team from Harvard Medical School together with Harvard's School of Public Health, and researchers concluded that lowering alcohol consumption lowered the risk of developing colorectal cancer.

Critics of the study were swift to point out problems with the conclusion, noting that the correlation was weak. Furthermore, the highest risk was shown in the lightest drinking group, and subjects who did not have a family history did not have their cancer risk changed by a high alcohol intake.

Data was inconclusive and did not show causation.

Observational studies of this type are problematic, and the heavy consumers of alcohol in the study were generally also smokers with a poor diet low in folate, known risk factors for colon cancer which confounds the relationship.

The study was published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

This research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health.

Last Updated:
February 20, 2012