According to Italian researchers, drinking high volumes of alcohol each day is associated with a greater risk of developing liver cancer. According to Dr.Francesco Donato,a professor of epidemiology and public health, at the University of Texas, the quantity of alcohol consumed is the most important determinant of the risk of having liver disease due to alcohol. Drinking a large amount of alcohol for a few years is a risk-taking behavior, whereas drinking a low-to-moderate amount for many years is probably safe for an individual.
Alcohol use is known to be a major cause of liver diseases such as cirrhosis and liver cancer. The researchers hoped to determine what amount of alcohol is considered safe to consume and what amount was most associated with this increased risk.
Donato and colleagues studied 400 Italian men and women diagnosed with hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common form of liver cancer, and 824 patients with no liver damage. All were asked to report their lifetime drinking history.
The researchers found that for both men and women, drinking more than 50 grams of alcohol a day, equivalent to around four to five glasses of wine, was associated with an elevated risk of developing liver cancer, while drinking between 30 and 50 grams of alcohol daily, the equivalent of three to four glasses of wine, was associated with a moderate risk.
"Drinking up to 30 grams per day is probably not dangerous for the liver of a healthy individual," Donato noted, "and may (even) be beneficial to his or her cardiovascular system."
Because most of the patients were primarily wine drinkers, the investigators could draw no conclusions about the effects of different types of alcohol.
The researchers also found that the risk of developing liver cancer was even greater for patients who had been diagnosed with either hepatitis C or hepatitis B. "The risk of (liver cancer) in subjects with a viral hepatitis infection approximately doubles if he or she also drinks alcohol regularly," Donato noted. "Prudently, they should totally abstain from drinking alcohol."