Alcohol and cancer: is drinking the new smoking?

    Cutting alcohol consumption linked to reduced cancer rates

    TORONTO, Sept. 26 /CNW/ - Researchers at the Centre for Addiction and
Mental Health (CAMH) have clarified the link between alcohol consumption and
the risk of head and neck cancers, showing that people who stop drinking can
significantly reduce their cancer risk.
    According to CAMH Principal Investigator Dr. Jurgen Rehm, existing
research consistently shows a relationship between alcohol consumption and an
increased risk for cancer of the esophagus, larynx and oral cavity. Dr. Rehm
and his team analyzed epidemiological literature from 1966 to 2006 to further
investigate this association and their results, published in the September
issue of the International Journal of Cancer, showed that:

    -   The risk of esophageal cancer nearly doubled in the first two years
        following alcohol cessation, a sharp increase that may be due to the
        fact that some people only stop drinking when they are already
        experiencing disease symptoms. However, risk then decreased rapidly
        and significantly after longer periods of abstention.

    -   Risk of head and neck cancer only reduced significantly after 10
        years of cessation.

    -   After more than 20 years of alcohol cessation, the risks for both
        cancers were similar to those seen in people who never drank alcohol.

    These results have important implications for tailoring alcohol policies
and prevention strategies, especially for people with a family risk of cancer.
    Said Dr. Rehm, "Alcohol cessation has very similar effects on risk for
head and neck cancers as smoking cessation has on lung cancer. It takes about
two decades before the risk is back to the risk of those who were never
drinkers or never smokers."
    Alcohol is the 'drug of choice' for Canadians, with 60% of Ontario adults
consuming alcohol on at least a monthly basis. The direct and indirect costs
to society of alcohol abuse are substantial: $5.3 billion in Ontario alone,
second only to the social burden of tobacco. This burden takes into effect the
cardioprotective effects of alcohol, which, unlike its link to cancer, has
received a great deal of public attention.
    Dr. Rehm notes that more research is needed on the effects of alcohol
cessation on other types of cancer -- especially breast, liver and colorectal
cancers, for which the International Agency for Research on Cancer has also
classified alcohol as carcinogenic -- and on the effects of alcohol type,
drinking patterns, and the joint effects of smoking and alcohol cessation on
the risk of cancer.

    The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is Canada's leading
addiction and mental health teaching hospital. Integrating clinical care,
scientific research, education, policy development and health promotion, CAMH
transforms the lives of people impacted by mental health and addiction issues.

For further information:

For further information: or to arrange interviews please contact Michael
Torres, Media Relations, CAMH, (416) 595-6015

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