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Monday 24th October 2016

Heavy drinking linked to stomach cancer

31st October 2011

More than four drinks a day and a preference for beer have been identified in a recent European study as being the "tipping point" for increased stomach cancer risk.


The researchers did not find the same level of stomach cancer risk among men who limited themselves to three drinks a day at most.

Preferring beer over wine or spirits also seemed to prejudice people in favour of getting stomach cancer.

Lead researcher Eric J. Duell and his colleagues at the Catalan Institute of Oncology in Barcelona wrote that the association between alcohol consumption and gastric cancer had never been conclusively studied.

In the past, people studying the relationship between alcohol and stomach cancer have found it hard to adjust their results to compensate for tobacco consumption, since so many people who drink also often smoke.

For the study, the researchers analysed the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC).

The EPIC included 444 cases of stomach cancer, and encompassed more than half a million European adults.

Since the number of study subjects was so large, the researchers were able to separate the effects of tobacco use and alcohol consumption.

Although the overall pattern the researchers observed was for people who drank more than four drinks a day to get cancer, they calculated that the average person's absolute risk could still be small.

That was because, although nearly 13,000 of the EPIC study subjects were heavy drinkers when the study began, only 33 had developed stomach cancer during the study follow-up.

Women seemed less likely to get stomach cancer, but women were also less likely to drink.

Experts currently recommend that men get no more than two drinks a day, and women no more than one.

Drinking heavily can also bring about mouth cancers, throat cancers, and liver scarring, especially if people smoke.

Being infected with Helicobacter pylori, especially prominent in developing countries, where stomach cancer is also much more common, also played a role.

The researchers wrote that, as for the reason why heavy drinking would cause stomach cancer, it may be due to acetaldehyde, a known carcinogen.

Acetaldehyde is an alcohol metabolite, and is produced when people's stomachs begin to digest the substance.

As for the reason why beer would make stomach cancer especially likely, it could be due to the drink's high levels of nitrosamines, which other studies have linked to cancer.

The researchers wrote that ingesting several carcinogens at the same time could be the reason why the statistics seemed to point especially to heavy drinkers who prefer beer getting stomach cancer.


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