Citing a study headed by professor Juergen Rehm of the Zurich-based Research Institute for Public Health and Addiction (ISGF), the DKFZ noted, however, that it took up to 20 years before the cancer-risk level of reformed alcoholics dropped to that of non-drinkers.
The reason was that 15 to 30 years could pass before a cancer-risk factor caused an outbreak of the disease, it said.
Diseases frequently afflicting alcoholics are cancer of the oesophagus, larynx and throat. The risk of contracting them rises in proportion to the amount of alcohol consumed, the ISGF said.
In its statistical analysis of 13 studies comprising about 5,000 cases in all, Rehm's group showed that the cancer risk for reformed alcoholics actually rose during the first years of abstinence. This was probably due to the fact that many alcoholics quit drinking only after the first symptoms of disease appeared, it said.